Drug precursors: internal aspects
With this regulation, the European Union (EU) harmonises measures on the control and monitoring of substances that are frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances. In this manner, it aims at preventing the diversion of these substances.
Effective control of chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is an important tool in combating drug trafficking. However, these chemicals (known as “precursors”) also have legal and legitimate industrial uses. Therefore, it is necessary to recognise and protect the legal trade in these substances, while discouraging their diversion for illicit purposes.
The objective is to strike a balance between taking action to prevent the manufacture of illegal drugs and avoiding barriers to the legal trade in chemicals.
Measures to control precursors
This regulation establishes harmonised measures for controlling and monitoring within the European Union (EU) certain chemical substances that are frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs. It defines “scheduled substances” * in accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations (UN) Convention (see below). For these scheduled substances, the regulation contains provisions relating to licences, customer declarations and labelling. A monitoring procedure is put in place to prevent obstacles to the free trade in these substances between EU countries.
At the same time, the regulation also defines “non-scheduled substances” * in accordance with Article 12 of the UN Convention. For these substances, the Commission draws up guidelines establishing a more flexible control system than the one applicable to scheduled substances.
Under the regulation, operators * must immediately notify the competent authorities of any circumstances, such as unusual orders or transactions involving scheduled substances to be placed on the market *, which suggest that such substances might be diverted for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.
Obligations of operators
Operators wishing to place on the market substances scheduled as precursors (categories 1 or 2 of Annex I) have the following obligations:
- to appoint an officer responsible for the trade, and to notify the competent authorities of the name and contact details of that officer;
- to declare the addresses of the premises at which they manufacture or from which they trade in these substances (for category 2);
- to obtain a licence from the competent authorities for possession of substances listed in category 1 (special licences may be granted to pharmacies, dispensaries of veterinary medicine, certain types of public authorities or armed forces);
- to ask customers to sign a declaration specifying the use(s) made of the substance provided to them;
- to supply scheduled substances only to natural or legal persons in possession of a licence for possession of such substances (for category 1);
- to affix a label to scheduled substances before they are transported, showing the name, quantity and weight of the substance and the name and address of the supplier and the recipient.
To prevent creating unnecessary barriers to trade, the requirements for scheduled substances in category 2 are less restrictive than for those in category 1, particularly where the quantities involved do not exceed those indicated in Annex II.
Assisted by a committee, the Commission draws up and keeps updated a list of substances to monitor. EU countries must distribute these lists to operators.
Background: internal and external aspects of the fight against drugs
In 1990, the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances was adopted by the EU through Council Decision 90/611/ EEC. Article 12 of the UN Convention required measures to be taken to monitor the manufacture and distribution of precursors. As regards the external aspect of this requirement, i.e. monitoring the trade in precursors between EU and non-EU countries, the requirements of Article 12 have been met by Council Regulation (EEC) No 111/2005.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Regulation (EC) No 273/2004||
JO L 47 of 18.2.2004
|Amending act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Regulation (EC) No 219/2009||
OJ L 87 of 31.3.2009