McFadden v. United States: Deconstructing Synthetic Drug Prosecutions
A jury convicted Stephen McFadden under the Analogue Act for selling “bath salts.” When ingested, bath salts can produce sensations similar to cocaine and methamphetamine. McFadden regularly checked the government’s list of banned substances and determined that his were not on the list. When a substances he was selling made the list, McFadden would stop selling it. In order to convict an individual of distribution of a controlled substance analogue, must the government prove that the individual “knew” that the substance constituted a controlled substance analogue, or is it sufficient merely to prove that the individual distributed the substance with the intention that it be for human consumption? This question earned the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral argument on April 20, 2015. What mens rea is required for this type of prosecution? Will the justices supply direction to lower courts concerning jury instructions in controlled substance analogue cases?