Chirality and consequences

United States v. Ramirez-Olvera, No. 14-11276 (5th Cir. published Oct. 26, 2015).

Chiral molecules have the same chemical composition, but are mirror images of each other. When people talk about the psychoactive substance “meth,” they’re generally talking about d-methamphetamine. But d-methamphetamine also has a chiral molecule called l-methamphetamine, which will unstuff your nose but won’t get you high. 

When sentencing Antonio Ramirez-Olvera for possession with intent to distribute, the district court counted both d-methamphetamine and l-methamphetamine. Ramirez-Olvera says the court should have distinguished between these two very different chemicals—an argument that seems plausible until you learn that l-methamphetamine usually “results from a botched attempt to produce d-methamphetamine.” In this case, at least, chirality does not reduce legal culpability. The district court didn’t err by counting both forms of the drug, and its sentence is affirmed.