Frequently Asked Questions on Precursors

A Researcher’s Guide to the UCSC Precursor Chemical Purchase Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are Precursor chemicals?

Chemicals that can be used to manufacture a controlled substance are termed precursors. Precursor chemicals are chemicals used at UCSC in the course of legitimate research that can also potentially be used in the illicit production controlled substances such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (ecstasy). One mission of the DEA and the CA-DOJ is to disrupt the illicit production of controlled substances by preventing diversion of precursor chemicals.

What are specific “Listed” chemicals or “Precursor” chemicals?

There are two Federal DEA lists, List I and List II, which differ by import/export/sales reporting thresholds. These lists can be found at

What are California precursor chemicals?

 The California list of precursor chemicals includes the DEA List I Chemicals plus some additional chemicals. California law requires UCSC to purchase these chemicals from in-state suppliers of these chemicals. This list can be found at Examples of listed chemicals include ephedrine hydrochloride, Propionic anhydride, piperidine, and pyrrolidine.

Any lab that wants to purchase a California precursor chemical must purchase from Spectrum Chemical. Spectrum Chemical requires the lab fill out Spectrum Form QAF481 and provide a "Letter of Intended Use" on department letterhead. There is also a 21 day waiting period after ordering a California precursor chemical.

What are List II Chemicals

List II Chemicals (a.k.a. Schedule II Chemicals, a.k.a. Essential Chemicals) is used in manufacturing a controlled substance in violation of the Act can be purchased legally in amounts below the limits stated in Table I. But if you want to buy amounts of List II chemicals above the thresholds given in Table I, then you will need that DEA or state permit.

Acetic anhydride


Benzyl chloride

Ethyl ether

Potassium permanganate

2-Butanone (or Methyl Ethyl Ketone or MEK)


Hydrochloric acid (including anhydrous hydrogen chloride)

Sulfuric acid

Methyl Isobutyl Ketone (MIBK)

Sodium Permanganate

Are individuals using precursors (DEA “Listed” chemicals or California “Precursor” chemicals ) included in the UCSC Controlled Substance Program?

No. The requirements of the Controlled Substance Program apply only to DEA “scheduled” drugs.

Why is necessary to check the DEA official lists

How do I order Listed/Precursor chemicals, such as piperidine?

Initially, each vendor requires an annual statement of use from purchasing.  Contact Purchasing for assistance in meeting vendor requirements.  Spectrum Chemical is an authorized distributor of Sigma Aldrich's line of CA Precursors to the UC system. This agreement is separate from the General Laboratory Supply agreement with Spectrum Chemical.  

The ordering lab must prepare a new letter for each precursor order placed. This letter must:

   1) Be on UCSC Department letterhead

   2) Clearly list each chemical ordered and its intended use

   3) Be signed by the PI or end user on file with purchasing

Spectrum also requires a signed UCSC PO from an authorized campus representative.     

The state mandates a 21 day hold on the order, starting once Spectrum Chemical
receives ALL required documents.

This MANDATORY requirement is imposed by the CA DOJ.  UCSC has no control over this.

Please plan your orders accordingly!

California List

 CA H&S Code 11100. (a) Any manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or other person or entity in this state that sells, transfers, or otherwise furnishes any of the following substances to any person or entity in this state or any other state shall submit a report to the Department of Justice of all of those transactions:

(1) Phenyl-2-propanone.

(2) Methylamine.

(3) Ethylamine.

(4) D-lysergic acid.

(5) Ergotamine tartrate.

(6) Diethyl malonate.

(7) Malonic acid.

(8) Ethyl malonate.

(9) Barbituric acid.

(10) Piperidine.

(11) N-acetylanthranilic acid.

(12) Pyrrolidine.

(13) Phenylacetic acid.

(14) Anthranilic acid.

(15) Morpholine.

(16) Ephedrine.

(17) Pseudoephedrine.

(18) Norpseudoephedrine.

(19) Phenylpropanolamine.

(20) Propionic anhydride.

(21) Isosafrole.

(22) Safrole.

(23) Piperonal.

(24) Thionyl chloride

(25) Benzyl cyanide.

(26) Ergonovine maleate.

(27) N-methylephedrine.

(28) N-ethylephedrine.

(29) N-methylpseudoephedrine.

(30) N-ethylpseudoephedrine.

(31) Chloroephedrine.

(32) Chloropseudoephedrine.

(33) Hydriodic acid.

(34) Gamma-butyrolactone, including butyrolactone; butyrolactone gamma; 4-butyrolactone; 2(3H)-furanone dihydro; dihydro-2

(3H)-furanone; tetrahydro-2-furanone; 1,2-butanolide; 1,4-butanolide;

4-butanolide; gamma-hydroxybutyric acid lactone; 3-hydroxybutyric acid lactone and 4-hydroxybutanoic acid lactone with Chemical Abstract Service number (96-48-0).

(35) 1,4-butanediol, including butanediol; butane-1,4-diol;

1,4-butylene glycol; butylene glycol; 1,4-dihydroxybutane;

1,4-tetramethylene glycol; tetramethylene glycol; tetramethylene

1,4-diol with Chemical Abstract Service number (110-63-4).

(36) Red phosphorus, including white phosphorus, hypophosphorous acid and its salts, ammonium hypophosphite, calcium hypophosphite, iron hypophosphite, potassium hypophosphite, manganese hypophosphite, magnesium hypophosphite, sodium hypophosphite, and phosphorous acid and its salts.

(37) Iodine or tincture of iodine.

(38) Any of the substances listed by the Department of Justice in

regulations promulgated pursuant to subdivision (b).

Who do I contact with questions?

Direct any questions regarding this program to or EH&S at 459-2553.

UCSC Controlled Substance Program Staff

Lisa Wisser CS Administrator 831-459-5772