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What we do
Our role is to regulate the legal import, export, cultivation, production and manufacture of controlled substances like medicinal cannabis, narcotic and psychotropic drugs.
We work to meet Australia’s international obligations for a well-regulated system to manage and monitor controlled narcotic and psychotropic drugs.
We do this under the 3 key international drug control treaties. These treaties provide an international framework that recognises the medicinal value of narcotic and psychotropic drugs. This ensures that these drugs are available for legitimate purposes.
We administer the legal import, export and manufacture of controlled drugs and cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes. We regulate these activities using licences and permits.
Read more on our licences and permits.
Other relevant authorities
You may need to meet your own state or territory regulations as well as applying for our licences and permits. For example:
- some states have specific requirements for medicinal cannabis.
- restrictions in the Northern Territory mean that kava may not be brought into this jurisdiction.
- kava food importers must meet food labelling and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries requirements.
Read more about other relevant authorities.
What we don't do
Our work to regulate controlled drugs doesn’t relate to:
- illegal drug raids
- drug smuggling
- providing business advice
- the control of cannabis for recreational use.
We work with the police when we suspect that drugs imported, cultivated or manufactured under our licences are used for illegal purposes.
As a government regulator we are committed to maintaining the confidence of the Australian public and the international community in relation to effective narcotic drugs control. As part of our work we also regulate precursor chemicals that can be used to manufacture narcotic drugs, and the cultivation of medicinal cannabis.
Our vision is for effective regulation of controlled drugs to prevent illicit supply and use, while maintaining access to essential medications. This links with the Department of Health and Aged Care’s vision of better health and wellbeing for all Australians, now and for future generations.
We exercise our powers through the following legislation:
- Narcotic Drugs Act 1967
- Narcotic Drugs Regulation 2016
- Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956
- Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958.
The legislation enacts specific requirements of the international drug treaties which allows us to:
- regulate the import, export and manufacture of controlled drugs to ensure access to essential medications
- regulate medicinal cannabis cultivation and production
- report on activities to the International Narcotic Control Board
- apply amendments to international drug controls in Australia
- ensure Australians have access to essential medications.
Read more about our legislation.
International drug control treaties
We operate under 3 key international drug control treaties:
- Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol
- Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971
- United Nations Convention against illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
The purpose of the drug control treaties is:
- to provide an international framework that recognises the medicinal value of narcotic and psychotropic drugs
- to ensure that these drugs are available for legitimate purposes.
Read more about the international treaties.
Monitoring and compliance
We manage and undertake compliance of licence and permit holders to ensure they meet their obligations under the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (the Act). We use a range of legislative tools and engagement practices to ensure ODC licence holders comply with their legislative obligations. We take appropriate action against non-compliance.
Where we find non-compliance we can:
- direct a person to take action such as securing a site
- vary a licence or permit to restrict activities or volumes
- issue infringement notices
- suspend or revoke a licence or permit
- refer the matter for civil or criminal prosecution.
We provide leadership, both domestically and internationally, on regulating legal import, export, cultivation and manufacture of narcotic and psychotropic drugs. As part of our work we liaise with international authorities to ensure the trade of legal narcotic drugs for use in medicine and research in Australia runs smoothly.
We work to resolve any issues under the international drug conventions. We provide guidance on the import, export, manufacture of controlled drugs and the cultivation of medicinal cannabis.
Following the end of the third tenure of the Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis Council on 30 June 2023 the Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Ged Kearney MP, agreed to reconstitute the Council as a Medicinal Cannabis Expert Working Group.
We support the Medicinal Cannabis Expert Working Group (the EWG) with secretariat services. The EWG will provide advice to the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care on matters relating to the medicinal use of cannabis. The EWG’s input and advice could also inform Department advice to Government.
Collectively the EWG comprises of experts with relevant qualifications, expertise or experience in areas relating to the use and regulation of medicinal cannabis, including medicinal or scientific research, pharmacology, specialist or general medical practice, specialist expertise in mental health, addiction medicine and/or alcohol and other drugs, nursing, legal, law enforcement, regulation, public health policy, patient advocacy (including people with lived experience), or relevant medicinal cannabis or pharmaceutical industry experience.
Consultation and engagement
We conduct public consultations to engage with stakeholders in the continuous improvement of our regulation of narcotic drugs and medicinal cannabis.
Find ODC consultations on the consultation hub.