Western Australian law

The following is an overview of the WA legislation relevant to volatile substance use (VSU):

Medicines and Poisons Act 2014

There are a range of volatile substances classified in the national Poisons Standard as Schedule 5, 6 and 7 poisons. These have requirements around appropriate packaging, warning labels and safety directions.

Nitrous oxide for non-therapeutic (medical) use is scheduled in the national Poisons Standard as a Schedule 6 (S6) poison. Wholesale and retail suppliers are only able to legally sell S6 nitrous oxide if:

  • the purchaser is aged 16 years or older;
  • products are labelled and packaged as a ‘poison’ with the following warning statements: “Do not intentionally inhale contents” and “WARNING – May cause irreversible nerve damage if inhaled”.

In response to the harms caused through increased availability and use of nitrous oxide, the Western Australian Government will be introducing further regulatory supply controls in 2024. For more information, visit the Nitrous oxide supply restrictions webpage on the Department of Health website.

The Criminal Code 1913 (Section 206)

The Western Australian Criminal Code 1913 refers to the sale and supply of volatile substances under Section 206, Supplying intoxicants to people likely to abuse them.

It states: “A person who sells or supplies an intoxicant to another person in circumstances where the person knows, or where it is reasonable to suspect, that that or another person will use it to become intoxicated is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for 12 months and a fine of $12, 000”.

Section 206 specifically identifies an intoxicant as "a drug, or a volatile or other substance, capable of intoxicating a person" and a volatile substance as "a substance that produces a vapour at room temperature".

For more information, see the Western Australian Criminal Code 1913.

Protective Custody Act 2000

The Protective Custody Act 2000 (section 5-14) authorises police, and community officers appointed by the Commissioner of Police, to apprehend intoxicated persons and place them in the care of a responsible adult or into protective custody in ‘an appropriate facility’. Minors need to be placed with a parent, guardian or responsible adult and can be detained only until a suitable person has been located.

The Act also allows officers to seize and destroy any substance that is, or may contribute to, the intoxication of a minor. The Act specifically includes volatile substances in its definition of an ‘intoxicant’.

For more information, see the Protective Custody Act 2000.

Children and Community Services Act 2004

Section 41 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 enables police officers to move children who are not currently at their place of residence, who are not under the supervision of a responsible adult and are behaving in a manner that places them at-risk, to a safe place. The provision is very broad and requires an assessment by the police officer.

For more information, see the Children and Community Services Act 2004.

Aboriginal Communities Act 1979

Section 7 of the Aboriginal Communities Act (1979) relates to Aboriginal by-laws which the council of a community can make relating to the lands of that community. These can include the prohibition, restriction or regulation of the possession, use or supply of alcoholic liquor or deleterious substances (including volatile substances).

By-laws empower police to apprehend any persons guilty of a breach of any by-law and to remove such a person from the community lands.

For more information, see the Aboriginal Communities Act 1979.

Other legislation

Other legislation exists to deal with criminal behaviours which may be associated with VSU such as assault, theft, sexual assault, and driving whilst intoxicated. For example, the Young Offenders Act 1994 allows for a young person charged with an offence deemed to be in relation to their intoxication or dependence on a substance, to be required to attend a treatment program.

For more legislative information, see the WA State Law Publisher website.

See also VSU-related laws in Australia page of this website.