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Your business must hold a licence or registration for category 1, 2 or 3 scheduled substances if you:

  • import
  • export
  • carry out intermediary activities, eg buying or selling, or arranging sales

You need a licence for category 1 substances, or to be registered for categories 2 and 3.

The licence and registration are valid for up to 3 years.

Licence and registration application process

Fill in the application for the chemical category you plan to trade in.

The Home Office will carry out a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (previously known as a CRB check) on the 2 people listed on the application.

The licence application process can take up to 16 weeks.

The licence is for a firm and site - if your firm requires more than 1 site to be licensed, you have to apply separately.

The fees depend on the type of drug precursor chemicals you expect to import or export.

Licence type Licence application fee
Category 1 licence £1,371
Category 2 registration £435
Category 3 registration £435


You must register your premises and update the Home Office with any changes to these details. You may be exempt from the registration requirements if you deal in small quantities of scheduled substances.

You must tell the Home Office immediately if you receive orders or transactions that involve unusual amounts of substances and that you think could be involved in illegal drug manufacturing.

Drugs Licensing & Compliance Unit
Telephone: 020 7035 8972
Fax: 020 7035 6161
Find out about call charges

4th Floor Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Fines and penalties

Your licence could be suspended or revoked if the Home Office believes that you’re dividing substances or not complying with conditions.

You can be fined and imprisoned for up to 2 years if you don’t have the licence you need or don’t meet your licence requirements.

Reporting requirements

Once you have your licence, you’ll have to meet various reporting requirements to keep it.

These include:

  • keeping a paper trail marked ‘drug precursors’ for all chemicals, including all relevant summary and customs declarations, cargo manifests, invoices, transport or shipping documents, for at least 3 years after the date of the activity.
  • completing an International Narcotics Control Board ‘Annual Return’

You’ll need a separate authorisation for each precursor chemical to import or export these outside of the EU, in addition to being licensed or registered in the UK.