U.S. v. Marshall, s. 89-2420

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BAUER, Chief Judge, and CUMMINGS, WOOD, Jr., CUDAHY, POSNER, COFFEY, FLAUM, EASTERBROOK, RIPPLE, MANION, and KANNE; EASTERBROOK; CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge, with whom BAUER, Chief Judge, and WOOD, Jr., CUDAHY, and POSNER; POSNER, Circuit Judge, j
Citation908 F.2d 1312
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Stanley J. MARSHALL, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Richard L. CHAPMAN, John M. Schoenecker, and Patrick Brumm, Defendants-Appellants.
Docket Number89-3364,Nos. 89-2420,89-3390 and 89-3391,s. 89-2420
Decision Date10 September 1990

Byron G. Cudmore, Asst. U.S. Atty., Springfield, Ill., John W. Vandreuil, Asst. U.S. Atty., Madison, Wis., for plaintiff-appellee.

Burton H. Shostak, D. J. Kerns, Theodore A. Zimmerman, St. Louis, Mo., for Stanley J. Marshall.

T. Christopher Kelly, Madison, Wis., for Richard L. Chapman.

P. Scott Hassett, Lawton & Cates, T. Christopher Kelly, Madison, Wis., for John M. Schoenecker.

Stephen J. Eisenberg, T. Christopher Kelly, Madison, Wis., for Patrick Brumm.


EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge.

Two cases consolidated for decision in banc present three questions concerning the application and constitutionality of the statute and sentencing guidelines that govern sales of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Stanley J. Marshall was convicted after a bench trial and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for conspiring to distribute, and distributing, more than ten grams of LSD, enough for 11,751 doses. 706 F.Supp. 650. Patrick Brumm, Richard L. Chapman, and John M. Schoenecker were convicted by a jury of selling ten sheets (1,000 doses) of paper containing LSD. Because the total weight of the paper and LSD was 5.7 grams, a five-year mandatory minimum applied. The district court sentenced Brumm to 60 months (the minimum), Schoenecker to 63 months, and Chapman to 96 months' imprisonment. All four defendants confine their arguments on appeal to questions concerning their sentences.

The three questions we must resolve are these: (1) Whether 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841(b)(1)(A)(v) and (B)(v), which set mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment--five years for selling more than one gram of a "mixture or substance containing a detectable amount" of LSD, ten years for more than ten grams--exclude the weight of a carrier medium. (2) Whether the weight tables in the sentencing guidelines likewise exclude the weight of any carrier. (3) Whether the statute and the guidelines are unconstitutional to the extent their computations are based on anything other than the weight of the pure drug. Marshall presents some additional questions concerning his sentence that are important only if we get past these three.


According to the Sentencing Commission, the LSD in an average dose weighs 0.05 milligrams. Twenty thousand pure doses are a gram. But 0.05 mg is almost invisible, so LSD is distributed to retail customers in a carrier. Pure LSD is dissolved in a solvent such as alcohol and sprayed on paper or gelatin; alternatively the paper may be dipped in the solution. After the solvent evaporates, the paper or gel is cut into one-dose squares and sold by the square. Users swallow the squares or may drop them into a beverage, releasing the drug. Although the gelatin and paper are light, they weigh much more than the drug. Marshall's 11,751 doses weighed 113.32 grams; the LSD accounted for only 670.72 mg of this, not enough to activate the five-year mandatory minimum sentence, let alone the ten-year minimum. The ten sheets of blotter paper carrying the 1,000 doses Chapman and confederates sold weighed 5.7 grams; the LSD in the paper did not approach the one-gram threshold for a mandatory minimum sentence. This disparity between the weight of the pure LSD and the weight of LSD-plus-carrier underlies the defendants' arguments.


If the carrier counts in the weight of the "mixture or substance containing a detectable amount" of LSD, some odd things may happen. Weight in the hands of distributors may exceed that of manufacturers and wholesalers. Big fish then could receive paltry sentences or small fish draconian ones. Someone who sold 19,999 doses of pure LSD (at 0.05 mg per dose) would escape the five-year mandatory minimum of Sec. 841(b)(1)(B)(v) and be covered by Sec. 841(b)(1)(C), which lacks a minimum term and has a maximum of "only" 20 years. Someone who sold a single hit of LSD dissolved in a tumbler of orange juice could be exposed to a ten-year mandatory minimum. Retailers could fall in or out of the mandatory terms depending not on the number of doses but on the medium: sugar cubes weigh more than paper, which weighs more than gelatin. One way to eliminate the possibility of such consequences is to say that the carrier is not a "mixture or substance containing a detectable amount" of the drug. Defendants ask us to do this.

Defendants' submission starts from the premise that the interaction of the statutory phrase "mixture or substance" with the distribution of LSD by the dose in a carrier creates a unique probability of surprise results. The premise may be unwarranted. The paper used to distribute LSD is light stuff, not the kind used to absorb ink. Chapman's 1,000 doses weighed about 0.16 ounces. More than 6,000 doses, even in blotter paper, weigh less than an ounce. Because the LSD in one dose weighs about 0.05 milligrams, the combination of LSD-plus-paper is about 110 times the weight of the LSD. The impregnated paper could be described as "0.9% LSD". 1 Gelatin carrying LSD could be described as "2.5% LSD", if the weight for gelatin given in United States v. McGeehan, 824 F.2d 677, 680 (8th Cir.1987), is accurate.

This is by no means an unusual dilution rate for illegal drugs. Heroin sold on the street is 2% to 3% opiate and the rest filler. Jerome J. Platt, Heroin Addiction: Theory, Research, and Treatment 48-50 (1986). Sometimes the mixture is even more dilute, approaching the dilution rate for LSD in blotter paper. E.g., United States v. Buggs, 904 F.2d 1070, 1072 (7th Cir.1990), (conviction for sale of 9.95 grams of 1.2% heroin). Heroin and crack cocaine, like LSD, are sold on the streets by the dose, although they are sold by weight higher in the distributional chain. All of the "designer drugs" and many of the opiates are sold by the dose, often conveniently packaged in pills. The Sentencing Commission lists MDA, PCP, psilocin, psilocybin, methaqualone, phenmetrazine, and amphetamines (regular and meth-) along with LSD as drugs sold by the dose in very dilute form. 55 Fed.Reg. 19197 (May 8, 1990) (amending Application Note 11 to U.S.S.G. 2D1.1). Other drugs, such as dilaudid and dolaphine, are sold by the pill rather than weight, and it is safe to assume that all have far less than 100% active ingredients.

Just as it is hasty to assume that the carrier produces a unique dilution factor for LSD, so it is unwarranted to assume that LSD as it leaves the refinery is pure, and therefore weighs only 0.05 mg per dose. Solid LSD weighs that little, but is it shipped dry? Neither the record nor the sparse literature tells us. LSD is applied to a carrier in a solvent such as alcohol. How dilute is this solution? If we assume that one drop of liquid is applied to each square of blotter paper, then the liquid is only 0.1% LSD. 2 We do not know whether one drop per dose is right, but, if it is, the solution weighs 8.5 times as much per dose as blotter paper: a dose of LSD in alcohol weighs 0.0487 grams, while a dose of LSD in blotter paper weighs 0.0057 grams. 3 A manufacturer caught with wholesale quantities of LSD solution that had not been applied to blotter paper would face sentences higher than those who possess only the paper containing the drug.

So there may be nothing extraordinary about LSD, no reason to think that the statute operates differently for LSD than for heroin. Heroin comes into this country pure; it is sold diluted on the street, creating the possibility that Sec. 841 will require higher sentences for retailers than for smugglers or refiners. The dilution factor for retail heroin is not significantly different from the factor for LSD on blotter paper. LSD in solution weighs more than LSD on blotter paper; pure heroin weighs (much) less per dose than the dilute heroin sold on the street. Heroin is sold in different cities at different dilution rates; that implies that the weight of a packet of heroin for a single administration weighs more in some cities than in others. The percentage difference exceeds the gap between paper and gelatin, the common carriers of LSD. Office of Intelligence, Drug Enforcement Administration, Domestic Monitor Program: Summary Report Fiscal Year 1989. So although Sec. 841 creates the possibility of erratic application in LSD cases, it is important to recognize that the normal case involves neither extreme weight (LSD in orange juice) nor extreme purity (19,999 doses weighing less than a gram). With this understanding, we turn to the statute.


It is not possible to construe the words of Sec. 841 to make the penalty turn on the net weight of the drug rather than the gross weight of carrier and drug. The statute speaks of "mixture or substance containing a detectable amount" of a drug. "Detectable amount" is the opposite of "pure"; the point of the statute is that the "mixture" is not to be converted to an equivalent amount of pure drug.

The structure of the statute reinforces this conclusion. The 10-year minimum applies to any person who possesses, with intent to distribute, "100 grams or more of phencyclidine (PCP) or 1 kilogram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of phencyclidine (PCP)", Sec. 841(b)(1)(A)(iv). Congress distinguished the pure drug from a "mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of" it. All drugs other than PCP are governed exclusively by the "mixture or substance" language. Even brute force...

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