Australia: Synthetic drugs a Kronic issue for employers

Workplace Relations Insights

Key Points:
Although Kronic may still be legal in some jurisdictions for the time being, employers should not underestimate the possible ramifications of synthetic drug use for their workplace.

The recent media coverage of the increasing use of synthetic cannabis or "Kronic" in Australian workforces has highlighted the importance of effective and flexible drug and alcohol policies and procedures.

New drugs such as Kronic, which may be legal and may not show up in established testing procedures, can potentially affect employees' fitness for work and create issues for employers in the management of their fitness for work policies and procedures.

What are these drugs?

Synthetic cannabis has been legally sold in Australia under brand names such as Kronic, Kaos and Voodoo for around four years. Kronic and other synthetic cannabis products do not contain THC, the main psychoactive compound in regular cannabis. As a result, Kronic use is not detected by the usual drug tests aimed at detecting traditional cannabis. Further, in some states, Kronic is not currently illegal, resulting in the perception by many employees that it is more acceptable and less dangerous than illicit drugs.

Despite not containing THC, synthetic cannabis can be many times stronger than traditional cannabis and can create the same types of impairment including euphoria, slowed reflexes, hallucinations, irregular heartbeats, anxiety, depression and even death. Kronic has been banned in 16 countries around the world.

Recent statistics from the WA Government's laboratory, ChemCentre, show that 10% of the workplace samples it has been provided with have tested positive to synthetic cannabis use. Results from some worksites returned 30% positive results. Mine operators in Queensland and New South Wales are also becoming increasingly concerned about Kronic use on their sites.

What are governments doing about his?

Resource industry employers have led the recent charge against synthetic drug use with the result that synthetic cannabinoids are now illegal in WA and South Australia..

The Queensland Government has also announced it is moving to ban substances "intended to have a substantially similar pharmacological effect as known drugs".

Most recently, the New South Wales Government has announced that Kronic and other forms of synthetic cannabis will be banned from July 2011.

What are the specific legal issues for the resources sector?

In Queensland under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, mine sites are required to have a Safety and Health Management System (SHMS). Under the Act's regulations, the SHMS is required to provide for controlling risks associated with the "improper use of drugs". "Drugs" are defined in the Act's supporting standards as any substance which alters the body's functions physically or psychologically.

In establishing the criteria for the assessment of the improper use of drugs, there are strict processes that must be complied with. These processes may require consultation with the workforce in order to amend established procedures or to introduce new ones. Employers need to be aware of these requirements in developing their responses to issues such as synthetic cannabis use.

In Western Australia, all matters relating to occupational health and safety at mine sites are governed by the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 (MSI Act), which is regulated by the Safety Division of the Department of Mines and Petroleum.

The MSI Act does not require alcohol or drug testing on mine sites. However, the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995 (MSI Regulations) provides that a person must not be in or on any mine while they are adversely affected by intoxicating liquor or drugs, or consume or have any deleterious drug in their possession without the knowledge and permission of the mine manager. A breach of this requirement carries a $5,000 penalty for an employee if it is their first offence.

With the banning of Kronic and other forms of synthetic cannabis in WA, any use of Kronic by employees at WA mine sites will now constitute a criminal offence, as well as a clear breach of the MSI Regulations. However, whether any new legal drugs that may emerge will also fall within the scope of the MSI Regulations remains open to question.

Regardless of the regulatory context, most mine sites have stringent drug and alcohol and drug testing regimes in place, and a zero tolerance approach to the use of drugs onsite. Several major employers in the resources industry have already banned Kronic at their mines. While testing for Kronic use has been difficult, employers in the resources industry are quickly developing strategies to deal with Kronic use onsite, such as forwarding samples to those organisations that have already developed the technology to detect the substance.

Employers: What should you do now?

Jurisdictions throughout Australia are currently considering their response to increasing synthetic drug use. As noted above, synthetic cannabis is now banned in WA and South Australia, will be banned in NSW from July, and similar moves are afoot in Queensland. Other states are likely to follow a similar path. However, in the meantime, given the potential workplace safety risks arising from use of Kronic and other synthetic drugs, particularly in high-risk industries such as mining, employers should already be taking steps to address the possible use of these drugs by their employees.

One important step employers should take is to review their current drug and alcohol policies. Regardless of regulatory requirements, any changes to workplace policies and procedures should be made in consultation with employees and OHS representatives. As part of this process, employers may also wish to raise awareness of the risks associated with legal drug use with their workforce in order to challenge the perception employees may have that because it is legal, it is not harmful or dangerous.

In high-risk industries, it may be advisable to impose a total ban on drugs such as Kronic on safety grounds, as some employers have already done. Employees should also be clearly informed that regardless of the legality or otherwise of particular drugs, anything that impairs their fitness for work may be the subject to disciplinary sanctions based on the employer's occupational health and safety obligations to provide a safe workplace.

Although it may still be legal in some jurisdictions for the time being, employers should not underestimate the possible ramifications of employees using Kronic and other synthetic drugs for their workplace. We recommend that any employers reviewing their drug and alcohol policies in light of the issues covered in this article seek professional advice. 

You might also be interested in...

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.