CHINA - People who buy, transport, deliver or possess ephedrine compounds with the intention of processing them into narcotics will be convicted of illegal drug-making, China's top judicial authorities said on Tuesday.
Previously, it was hard for judges to deal with these cases because the Criminal Law did not specifically cover ephedrine compounds.
To close the loophole, the Supreme People's Court, Supreme People's Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security published a notice on June 18, providing judicial explanations for cases involving ephedrine compound trafficking and illegal trade.
Ephedrine has legitimate pharmaceutical uses, but it is also the main ingredient in a class of illegal synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine.
From January to May, Chinese courts have heard 23,720 drug cases, 1.38 per cent more than the same period last year, while cases involving synthetic drugs are rapidly multiplying, according to the Supreme People's Court.
Though the sale of ephedrine is strictly regulated, its compounds can be abstracted from over-the-counter medicines and made into narcotics, said Sun Jungong, spokesman for the court.
"Currently, more than half of the ingredients used to make narcotics are ephedrine compounds," Sun said. He added that in some cities, illegal industrial chains have been set up to make drugs from ephedrine compounds.
"It is easy to use chemicals commonly available on the market to make drugs, and this provides money-making opportunities by processing and abstracting the (ephedrine) compounds," said Gao Guijun, a judge at the court who specializes in criminal cases.
Over the past five years, the number of drug cases has been increasing, reaching 69,244 in 2011, compared with 38,500 in 2007, according to the court.
In an effort to overcome the difficulties and close loopholes in management of chemicals that can be used to make drugs, Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu suggested lawmakers revise regulations and update the catalog of illicitly used chemicals at the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee on Tuesday.
In addition, Meng also suggested including illicit manufacturing and transporting of items used to make narcotics into the Criminal Law.