LSD and the War on Drugs

Winter 1992/93 Vol. 03, No. 4 Forging New Alliances

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The Spring, 1992 issue of the MAPS newsletter discussed the controversy concerning sentencing guidelines for people convicted of the manufacture, sale or possession of LSD. Because the weight of the carrier (blotter paper, sugar cubes, liquid, etc.) is added to the amount of LSD, people caught with the same amount of LSD can get widely varying sentences. Because these unequal punishments for the same amount of LSD are inconsistent with equal justice under the law, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is considering changes to the Guidelines. The letter to MAPS, reprinted below, from Michael Sommers, a prisoner serving time for the sale of LSD, illustrates another illogical and tragic aspect of our current Guidelines.

"You are already cognizant of the specific sentencing guidelines but are you at all aware of how the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) looks at LSD convictees when they enter the system? This is an interesting twist. The BOP has a whole typically bureaucratic amalgam of figures derived from various aspects of a persons’ particular crime and their past criminal history which when added together form the security and custody point total, which is the signifier of what security facility is necessary to adequately house this particular girl or boy. The mechanisms by which these numbers are derived are to be found in the Custody Classification Form of the BOP. There are four different levels of security currently designated for BOP facilities, minimum or camp, low, medium , and high. In the classification form there are five levels of severity of the crime; lowest, low moderate, moderate, high, greatest. The severity of crimes involving drugs are, like sentencing, based on the amount of the drugs involved. With regard to LSD, the amount is gauged on the amount of doses involved rather than on the total weight of the LSD plus the carrier, and is on a totally different scale than the sentencing guidelines. As the BOP sees it, anyone caught with 10,000 dosage units or less is placed in the low moderate severity level. This accrues for them one point towards their security point total. My crime was distribution of 28 grams of LSD and places me in level 32 of the guidelines with a sentence of 121-151 months. But since it only involved 4000 dosage units of LSD I am considered low moderate by the BOP and subsequently am camp eligible since I am such a low security risk. It would have taken greater than 70 grams worth of LSD for me to be placed in a higher severity level. So virtually all of the LSD convicted inmates who are non-violent, non-gun toting, non-escape attemptees with not much of a past history of crime are on the lowest level of security risk assigned by the BOP. Meanwhile their counterparts convicted of other substance related crimes are all immediately placed in a higher category. The BOP is tacitly signalling that they too see the LSD purveyor as much less serious an offender than their sentencing belies."

Senator Kennedy has twice attempted to get amendments through Congress that would take the carrier weight out of the sentencing for LSD but each attempt, although it was passed by the Senate, was not passed by the House. I think you should all let him know your appreciation for his past attempts and encourage him to try, try again. Also, Senator Biden is at the very moment compiling a dossier of LSD cases with which he can bolster another attempt by himself (one previous attempt met the same fate as Kennedy’s) to send an amendment through the next Congress. So actually the Senate has it’s shit together on this subject but the House of Representatives needs some work.

For those wanting to write to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, write to:

William Wilkens, Jr., Chairman
U.S. Sentencing Commission
133 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Suite 1400
Washington, D.C.

For those wanting to write to Michael, his address is:

Michael Sommers
P.O. Box 1010
Bastrop, TX 78602-1010