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Hash brownies could net Texas teen life in prison

Published time: May 21, 2014 00:39
Reuters / Jason Redmond

Reuters / Jason Redmond

A pound-and-a-half of pot brownies might lead a 19-year-old Texas man to a life sentence in prison. Jacob Lavoro is being charged with possession of marijuana, possession of the illegal hash oil and sale of the hash-infused cookies and brownies.

Lavoro is being charged with a first-degree felony for using hash oil to bake his ‘magic’ brownies. Hash oil is considered the most potent form of cannabis, as it may contain more than 60 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to the United Nations World Drug Report 2009. Under Texas law, possession (as is the manufacturing and delivering) of hash oil is a felony, while possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor in the state.

"The State of Texas penalizes the possession, manufacture, and distribution of this concentrated THC oil differently than it does the possession of unprocessed, raw marijuana leaf," First Assistant District Attorney Mark Brunner explained in a statement to KEYE TV. “Under Texas law, this higher-potency hash oil is classified in the Controlled Substances Act as a Penalty Group 2 substance. The degree of potential punishment for possession or distribution of a controlled substance is linked to the weight of the substance found – including any adulterants or dilutants.”

And because hash oil was used in the brownies, all the other ingredients are considered to be adulterants or dilutants. Since the aggregate weight of the hash brownies was 1.5 pounds, he can be charged with manufacturing and distribution of 1.5 pounds of a Penalty Group 2 controlled substance, Williamson County prosecutor Travis McDonald told The Associated Press. He used cocaine as another example: "If you dissolve cocaine into a [soda], technically you could charge him with the weight of the [soda]," McDonald said. However, he added, "I don't think I would."

Along with the THC-laced baked goods, Round Rock Police officers found a pound of marijuana, digital scales, $1,675 in cash and dozens of baggies with marijuana and hash oil. Police were responding to a complaint about marijuana use.

Possession of a pound of pot in Texas is also a felony, but only carries a sentence of 180 days to two years in prison, as well as a maximum fine of $10,000, according to NORML, an organization that advocates decriminalization and legalization of marijuana.

"Possession of the smallest amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor. Possession of the tiniest amount of hash even a gram is a state jail felony,” Jamie Spencer, the legal counsel for Texas NORML, told KEYE TV. He thinks the potential life sentence is too much. “That's higher than the punishment range for sexual assault, higher than the punishment range for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. It's kind of crazy!”

"This case is the perfect example of the insanity of Texas' drug laws," Spencer added. "Especially when it comes to marijuana or anything where the active ingredient is THC."

Lavoro’s attorney, Jack Holmes, agreed. "I’ve been doing this 22 years as a lawyer and I’ve got 10 years as a police officer and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Holmes told KHON-TV. “They’ve weighed baked goods in this case. It ought to be a misdemeanor."

McDonald noted that sentences can vary depending on aggravating factors and other considerations, and that a plea deal is always possible. "First-time offenders are treated differently. As far as I know, he is a first offender," McDonald told AP. The former high school football player has a clean record, according to KHON.

Lavoro’s next scheduled court appearance is June 19. He is out of jail on a $30,000 bond.

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