Poppy Regulation Act

Background to opium poppy cultivation

Papaver somniferum is the plant species from which opium and poppy seeds are derived. Opium is the source of many narcotics including morphine (and its derivative heroin), thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine. Australia, Turkey and India are the major producers of poppies for medicinal purposes and poppy-based drugs, such as morphine or codeine. Each year Australia, historically Tasmania, has produced over half of the world's legal narcotic product.

Globally the legal opium poppy industry is strictly regulated under international law. Australia, as a signatory to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 (the Convention) is required to carefully control and supervise all stages of the growing and production of opium poppies as well as the import and export of narcotic material. Implementation of the Convention is overseen by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which determines annual quotas for the growing of narcotic plants based on estimates of worldwide production needs.

Under the Northern Territory's Misuse of Drugs Act, a number of substances and plants are classified as Schedule 2 dangerous drugs. As a result it is an offence to supply, cultivate, manufacture, produce or possess such substances. Papaver somniferum and its derivatives are specified under Schedule 2 of this Act. The Poppy Regulation Act (NT) allows for the lawful cultivation, processing, storage and transportation of opium poppy and poppy derived products, but only under a strictly controlled licensing regime.

Overview of NT poppy legislation

The Poppy Regulation Act (the Act) commenced operation on 29 May 2014.
This Act provides for the regulation of opium poppy activities to permit the activities of cultivation, possession, transportation and processing of poppies. The Act seeks to reduce the risk to the safety and security of persons by providing a strict licensing framework to conduct the above activities. Some of the key areas covered by the Act are outlined below:

  • an applicant and any associates must demonstrate that they are fit and proper persons in order for a licence to be issued. Further, the applicant needs to submit a detailed risk management plan (RMP) for the management of any risks associated with the activity to be carried out under the poppy licence (for example, ensuring appropriate site security and product transportation security, the management of biosecurity risks and other conditions of licensing). The RMP is assessed as part of the application process
  • a Poppy Licensing Authority (the Authority) is appointed
  • a requirement for the Authority to seek the view of the commissioner of police on whether or not a licence should be granted. Should the commissioner form a view that a poppy licence should not be issued to a particular person, the Authority is obliged to take this advice and not issue the licence
  • in order to obtain a licence to cultivate poppies in the Northern Territory, a prospective grower must provide evidence that is has entered into a contract with a licensed poppy processor, either in the NT or in another jurisdiction that issues poppy processing licences
  • for activities carried out under a Northern Territory-issued poppy processing licence, under the Act the licensee must also hold any Commonwealth licence required as the manufacturing of poppy materials and products are licensed under the Commonwealth's Narcotic Drugs Act
  • part 4 of the Act details the specific offences under the Act. For example, clause 32 makes it an offence for a person to cultivate, possess, transport or process poppy material if the person is not a licensee under the Act, or is not a contractor or employee of a person licensed under the Act. It is also an offence for a licensee, or contractor or employee of a licensee, to contravene the poppy licence under which they operate. The Act also provides powers for appointed poppy control officers to undertake a range of activities to ensure that licensees and other persons are fully complying with conditions of licence and thereby meeting their obligations under the Act.

Growing poppies

Licences to grow poppies in the NT cannot be granted without a valid contract with a licensed processing company. Prospective growers should first contact licensed processors GlaxoSmithKline, Tasmanian Alkaloids and/or TPI Enterprises  to express their interest. Applicants wishing to grow poppies in the Northern Territory will need to complete and lodge an application for a poppy licence two months prior to any proposed commencement of activities. 

For enquiries regarding the growing of poppies in the NT or information on applying for a licence, contact the department.

Last updated: 12 October 2017