Texas Teen Facing Up to Life in Prison For Pot Brownies

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While many states have already legalized medical use of cannabis and 2 have moved to legalize it for recreational purposes, the supposedly small government loving state of Texas is still firmly under the spell of “reefer madness.”

A Williamson County teenager now faces a sentence of 5 years to life for hash brownies. Even though 19 year old Jacob Lavoro is a first time offender the fact that his recipe included hash oil instead of plant matter raises the level of offense from a misdemeanor to a first degree felony.

That is because when weighing the substance authorities don't just include the weight of the hash oil but the entire weight of the brownies including: flower, chocolate, eggs, etc. That means Lavoro is being charged with having 1.4lbs of hash brownies instead of the mere few grams of hash oil he used.

See the Williamson County DA's explanation below the jump…

If I take 1 gram of hash oil and mix it (dilute it) into 500 grams of brownie mix, eggs, water, vegetable oil, etc., I now have 501 grams of a controlled substance. Not 1 gram, but 501 grams. I have taken a low-level felony and made it into a first degree felony. – Williamson Co. Assistant DA Mark Brunner

Brunner seems to be OK with that explanation saying later in an official statement that, “unless the law changes, we will continue to prosecute such cases.”

Lavoro was released on a $30,000 bond and his father was dumbfounded by the charges. “It's outrageous, it's crazy! I don't understand it…Five years to life? I'm sorry, I'm a law-abiding citizen. I'm a conservative. I love my country. I'm a Vietnam veteran, but … this is wrong!” he told KEYE TV in Austin.

Williamson County's approach is wrong, and that was highlighted in a 2013 report by the Department of Justice commissioned by Attorney General Eric Holder called “Smart on Crime.” It found that,

“The preliminary results of this review suggest a need for a significant change in our approach to enforcing the nation's laws. Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.

The reality is, while the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot prosecute our way to becoming a safer nation. “

The study even singled out Texas. “In recent years, states such as Texas and Arkansas have reduced their prison populations by pioneering approaches that seek alternatives to incarceration for people convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.”

Forbes reports that Brunner is aware that Lavoro “may be eligible for a term of community supervision (probation) not to exceed ten years.” So, let's hope the folks in the Williamson County DA's office are listening and that they stop the madness.

You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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