News Release
June 13, 2024


New Data Reveal Consistently High Purity Levels and Variations in Testing Practices

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― A new U.S. Sentencing Commission study found substantial increases in both the prevalence of federal methamphetamine trafficking sentences, and the purity levels of methamphetamine trafficked in the United States.

Over the past 20 years, the number of individuals sentenced federally for methamphetamine trafficking has risen by 168 percent, with methamphetamine now accounting for nearly half (49%) of all federal drug trafficking cases.

The study also revealed that the methamphetamine tested in fiscal year 2022 was on average over 90% pure with a median purity of 98%. Furthermore, the methamphetamine tested was uniformly highly pure regardless of whether it was sentenced as methamphetamine mixture (91% pure on average), methamphetamine actual (93%) or Ice (98%). By comparison, in 2000, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that methamphetamine purity ranged from 10% to 80% depending on location.

Methamphetamine is one of only five controlled substances where purity affects federal statutory and guideline penalties, resulting in higher penalties when purity levels are confirmed by laboratory testing. By federal statute, it takes ten times as much mixture compared to actual methamphetamine to trigger mandatory minimum penalties.

Because methamphetamine penalties are based in part on purity, penalty exposure and sentencing outcomes are impacted by confirmed purity levels. The Commission’s study found that testing practices varied across the nation and that testing rates across judicial circuits were inconsistent — ranging from under 60% to over 80% of the time. Notably, methamphetamine seized in southwest border districts was more likely to undergo laboratory testing (85%) than in non-border districts (70%).

Methamphetamine trafficking sentences averaged 91 months in fiscal year 2022, the longest among the major federal drug trafficking offenses, including fentanyl (65 months) and heroin (66 months). In addition, methamphetamine trafficking offenses carried mandatory minimum penalties more often (74%) than all other drug trafficking offenses (57%).

The report released today is the Commission's first comprehensive analysis of federal methamphetamine trafficking offenses in nearly 25 years. The Commission will continue to examine sentencing practices and trends in the methamphetamine caseload. For more information on this topic, access the Commission’s recently updated Quick Facts on Methamphetamine Trafficking Offenses.

# # #