Do Pot Brownies Deserve a LIFE SENTENCE?
The War on Drugs has sent millions to prison and millions more to a life with a criminal rap sheet. Within these many cases are stories of men and women being disproportionately penalized for nonviolent and, one could argue, completely victimless crimes. One of those stories is happening in Texas right now—where a 19-year old is facing life in prison for pot brownies.
Jacob Lavoro is facing felony charges and up to life in prison in Williamson County, near Austin. According to KXAN, the county is known for its tough-on-crime policies.
Police found brownies made with marijuana and hash oil in Lavoro’s apartment, along with a jar of 145 grams of the oil itself. They say he intended to sell the brownies for $25 each. It’s the distribution, the hash oil, and the weight of the brownies themselves that have landed Lavoro the most serious possible charges.
In Texas, laws regarding concentrated marijuana extracts (like the hash oil) are particularly harsh—carrying penalties 20 times that for smokeable pot. Further, because the oil was in the brownies, prosecutors are able to charge him for the entire weight of the brownies, not solely the weight of the THC or marijuana-derived ingredients. That makes the charges into a potential enhanced first degree felony drug charge instead of just a simple misdemeanor for marijuana.
“I’m scared. Very scared,” Lavoro said. “I’m 19 years old and still have a whole life ahead of me. Take that into account.”
Lavoro’s attorney Jack Holmes said lab reports indicate the brownies only had 2.5 grams of THC in them, a fact he says makes the stiff charges and potential penalties unnecessary. But, he doesn’t expect leniency.
For their part, the prosecution says Lavoro’s attorneys are “grandstanding” and that they won’t be seeking a life sentence for the teen. District Attorney Mark Brunner says he’s offered Lavoro a plea deal that would preclude him from serving any time as long as he kept up with his side of the agreement.
Holmes said the plea deal is too strict and Lavoro will not accept it as-is. If he did, Holmes worries prosecutors would be “overzealous” if Lavoro missed an appointment or in any way violated the terms.
Coverage of the case has thus far brought marijuana advocates and national press into Williamson County, where Lavoro is met with supporters whenever he heads to the courthouse. There is a facebook page to rally supporters called Justice for Jacob.
He will be indicted formally later this month and Holmes plans on arguing for a dismissal of the charges based on the legality of the initial police search of Lavoro’s apartment.
Texas drug laws are harsh, but implementation of these laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. When charged with a drug crime, the outcome you face could be dramatically different from one county to the next, and even from one courtroom to the next.