Federal appellate courts are currently split on the definition of “controlled substance” in the career offender guideline, with one side using federal law to define the phrase, and the other side allowing standalone state law offenses to trigger the guideline. Allowing state law to define the phrase allows countless substances Congress never intended to penalize to be able to trigger one of the most severe penalties in the Sentencing Guidelines. This Note assesses the landscape of the circuit split and analyzes the arguments for and against federally defining “controlled substance offense.” This Note then proposes a novel way to resolve the circuit split using the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Labonte to federally define “controlled substance offense.”



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