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How a Supreme Court Ruling Made Blotter Paper Beloved Among Acid Dealers Everywhere

Ever wondered why paper tabs are the most common delivery method for LSD? We broke down a 1991 US Supreme Court ruling that made it this way.

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The problem with LSD—like, good acid—is that if you’re lucky enough to score it in its purest form, it comes in a liquid. But liquids are liabilities! It’s difficult to travel long distances with them—I guess you could pack vials of LSD in a checked bag, but imagine getting caught with it? That’s an intent to distribute most of us should avoid. Liquids can also spill. They require responsibility and are often a mess, which is why acid is typically dropped onto a carrier, like perforated blotter paper, historically the most common way to consume LSD. 

But why blotter paper as opposed to…anything else? Like dried seaweed or oyster crackers or blueberries? I mean, of course, liquid LSD can be dropped on anything (I’m hearing the peanut gallery saying they only consume L on Sour Patch Kids or dates or mints and that paper tabs are antiquated). But there’s a reason an art subculture exists around blotter paper—and it’s not necessarily because our psychedelic foremothers had a palate for perforated paper.

The reason is because of a US Supreme Court decision, Cracked points out. Yes, the judicial branch of the US government is the reason acid is most commonly dropped on paper rather than anything else. Guess why? Because LSD laws in the US are oppressive, and they essentially permit weighing techniques that result in exaggerated numbers. Even though paper still weighs more than a drop of liquid L, it’s considerably less than any other carrier.

READ: Super Bowl Songwriter Mazie Credits LSD with Changing the Trajectory of Her Life

It all comes down to the precedent set in Chapman v. United States. In 1991, the US Supreme Court made a decision that set the standard for determining drug possession in a way that includes the weight of the carrier alongside the substance itself. In Chapman vs. United States, the defendants were caught with 10 sheets of LSD-soaked blotter paper, roughly equating to 1,000 tabs of acid. And while that only breaks down to 50 milligrams of Lucy, the US Supreme Court counted it as 5.7 grams of the drug.

How could they justify that amount? When police initially weighed the confiscated sheets, they weighed the soaked blotter paper—not just the LSD used on each square tab. 

Before the case went to the Supreme Court, it was heard in the US District Court, where a judge found the defendants guilty of intent to distribute. The defendants received an automatic five-year mandatory minimum sentence—as per 21 U.S.C. § 841 (b)(1)(B)—for the offense of distributing more than one gram of “a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount” of acid. But this archaic statute basically gives cops permission to inflate the weight of drugs, particularly LSD! It requires the weight of a carrier medium to be included when determining the appropriate sentencing for trafficking in LSD because, in the court’s eyes, the drug and its carrier “combine” and become one substance. (Mushrooms and mycelium they grow from could be another example of when the carrier medium might be weighed together if a cultivation warehouse gets raided.)

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The defendants’ lawyers appealed the decision, saying that LSD doesn’t chemically combine with the paper. Instead, microscopic LSD crystals remain on the surface and within the threads of paper, thus, remaining two independent and distinct things. The Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s decision, saying that weighing the paper was accurate. The defendant’s attorneys appealed again and took the case before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) with the same argument, saying that blotter paper doesn’t turn into LSD and that both the drug and the paper should be weighed separately. 

READ: 12 Best Movies to Watch on Acid

Of course, the Supreme Court said the argument was bullshit and sentenced the defendants to prison for five years. This decision established a legal standard that when determining the weight of drugs, both the actual drug and its carrier should be calculated together.

The situation could have been considerably worse if the acid was carried on anything heavier, like Sour Patch Kids or mints. LSD-infused sugar cubes are less popular these days because the weight of sugar will be factored into legal calculations. A single sugar cube weighs 3.5 grams, surpassing the one-gram threshold, thus carrying the risk of triggering the mandatory five-year sentence. In contrast, it would take roughly 200 hits of LSD on blotter paper to reach the same weight. The significant difference in weight made the sugar cube option unattractive.

So, even though 10 sheets of acid still landed these Deadheads in prison, the precedent set in this case makes any other carrier out of the question. And that’s why Blotter reigns supreme.

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