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What a long strange trip it still is...

LSD prosecutions, although rare, do occur in the District of Oregon. Those under threat of federal prosecution for a federal drug offense involving LSD need to be aware of the complex issues involved in the relationship between the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and statutory mandatory minimums in LSD offense cases. Retaining an experienced federal criminal defense attorney early on is a critically important step.

Federal law provides that a person is subject to a ten year mandatory minimum prison sentence if they are convicted of an LSD offense involving 10 or more grams of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of LSD. LSD is a powerful hallucinogenic, with doses measured in micrograms. The DEA considers a typical dose to be 50 micrograms. The LSD is often mixed in an alcohol based solvent and applied to other materials (for example "blotter" paper, gelatin tabs, or even sugar cubes for ingestion.

The first illogical result stems from the fact that the entire weight of the mixture or substance containing the LSD is used to determine whether the mandatory minimum sentence applies. This means that regardless of the number of "doses" involved, if the weight of the LSD and what it is contained in weighs 10 or more grams, then the mandatory minimum applies.

Take 100 doses or hits of LSD on blotter paper and 100 hits in a vial of liquid. The client with the100 hits on blotter paper will not face the mandatory minimum sentence because the LSD and the paper do not weigh 10 grams or more. The client with the vial will in all likelihood, simply given the weight of the liquid medium, be exposed to the mandatory minimum. Same thing for 50, 20, 10, or even one dose if the liquid and the doses together equal 10 or more grams.

Things get even weirder under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines specify suggested ranges of sentences depending primarily upon the amount of drugs involved in a given case. In the case of LSD, the guidelines treat LSD in liquid form much differently than LSD on another type of carrier medium. To determine a client's sentencing guidelines range in a case involving liquid LSD, only the weight of the pure LSD is to be used. This is often a miniscule figure. In the case of blotter paper, gelatin, sugar cubes or other media each dose is to be considered the equivalent of .4 milligrams.

Thus, under the guidelines a client in possession of liquid LSD will invariably receive a lower base offense level than someone with LSD on blotter paper or another carrier medium. This results in a strange situation where a defendant with liquid LSD may be subject to a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence, but has the lowest base offense guideline level of 12, whereas a defendant with the same amount of LSD on paper or another carrier medium (gels or sugar cubes) can be exposed to a guidelines range of up to 8 levels higher, but will not be exposed to the mandatory minimum sentence because the combined weight of the LSD and blotter paper does not exceed 10 grams.

In short, because of the mandatory minimum statute and the guidelines rules treat liquid LSD differently, two people charged with the same number of doses can receive dramatically different sentences depending simply on whether or not the LSD involved was in liquid form. 100 hits of acid on blotter for a first time offender will often result in a probationary sentence. 100 hits of LSD in liquid form subjects the individual to a ten year mandatory minimum prison sentence. The rabbit hole is now open for business. A longer, stranger trip is quite unimaginable.


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Kohlmetz, Steen & Hanrahan, P.C.

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