The law & volatile substances
Possession and use of volatile substances is not illegal in WA as volatile substance products are not illegal substances. However, it is illegal to sell or supply intoxicants, including volatile substances, to people likely to abuse them.
There are also laws which allow police to confiscate volatile substances and move minors to a safe place if they are deemed to be intoxicated or at-risk.
Some Aboriginal communities in Western Australia also have by-laws relating to the use, possession and supply of volatile substances.
While there are some legislative options for dealing with volatile substance use (VSU), the criminalisation of VSU is widely agreed to be an ineffective strategy to address the behaviour.
The National Inhalant Abuse Taskforce developed Guiding Principles for Inhalant Legislation to assist the development of best practice legislation and highlight key areas for consideration in a legislative response to VSU.
The three overarching general principles are:
- The primary aim of legislation should be to protect the health and welfare of inhalant users.
- Legislation should not criminalise the behaviour of inhalant users and should protect their civil rights.
- Communities may be best placed to make their own decisions and rules about inhalant use issues in their community.
(National Inhalant Abuse Taskforce, 2006)
For more information about the law and VSU, see the following pages of this website:
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Consensus-based clinical practice guideline for the management of volatile substance use in Australia
National Health and Medical Research Council. Guidelines for health professionals to identify, assess and treat people who use volatile substances in metropolitan, rural and remote communities across Australia. Part of a series of resources (NHMRC-1a, NHMRC-1b, NHMRC-1). See Chapter 3 - Legal Considerations (pp 45-46).
d'Abbs, P. & MacLean, S., Department if Health and Ageing. Australian Government review examining literature about interventions designed to address volatile substance use. See Chapter 10 - Law enforcement (p.98).
Department of Human Services. Victoria. National Inhalant Abuse Taskforce. Considers existing initiatives, programs and strategies to address inhalant abuse in Australia and makes recommendations for a national response to inhalant abuse. See Chapter 7 - Legislation (pp 65-78) for a comprehensive analysis and recommendations about VSU-related legislation. Also contains current legislation updates in the addendum.
Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee - Inquiry into the inhalation of volatile substances: Final report
Parliament of Victoria, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee. See Part E - Law and legal issues (pp. 171-266).