The 1984 Sentencing Reform Act charged the U.S. Sentencing Commission with developing sentencing guidelines that advanced the purposes of sentencing under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). After the Supreme Court cases Booker, Kimbrough, Gall, and Spears, it is now well established—at least with federal drug trafficking offenses—that the Commission did not fulfill that directive. The magnitude of that failure (coupled with some of Congress’s own misguided decisions) has previously been highlighted by the evolution of federal crack sentencing policies, the Fair Sentencing Act, the related line of Supreme Court cases, and more recently the First Step Act. Congress’s compromise correction of over twenty years (essentially a generation) of a failed war on crack did nothing to further correct similar defects with federal drug sentencing policies for other controlled substances—particularly with respect to methamphetamine. Given the resurgence of methamphetamine trafficking, use, and prosecutions, this paper will analyze post-1988 federal methamphetamine sentencing policy to illustrate how the drug-type, quantity, and purity model for punishing drug trafficking offenses still produces unwarranted sentencing disparities between similar controlled substances or different forms of the same controlled substances—and in the end plainly fails to effectively deter the targeted criminal conduct or advance the purposes of federal sentencing under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

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