Texas Teen Jacob Lavoro Faces Possible Life Prison Sentence for Marijuana Brownies
Jacob Lavoro, 19, of Round Rock, near Austin, was arrested last month after police responding to a complaint about marijuana use found 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg) of brownies, a pound (0.45 kg) of marijuana, $1,675 in cash, digital scales, and baggies containing marijuana and 5.1 ounces (145 grams) of hash oil at the teen’s apartment.
Lavoro has been charged with a first-degree felony that carries a penalty of five years to life behind bars. The severity of the potential sentence stems from the quantity of hash oil found in the defendant’s apartment; under Texas law, possession of more than 0.14 ounces (4 grams) of hash oil is enough for a first-degree felony charge.
Although hash oil is produced from cannabis plants through a process called solvent extraction, it contains much higher levels of the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), than unprocessed cannabis and in Texas the penalties for possession of hash oil are much harsher– the same as for ecstasy (MDMA) and methamphetamine.
Compounding Lavoro’s woes is the fact that prosecutors may use the weight of the brownies and charge him with manufacturing and distributing 1.5 pounds of the higher category of controlled substance.
Lavoro’s father was stunned that his son could be locked up for life for possession of what is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state, and for medical use in much of the nation, including neighboring New Mexico.
“It’s outrageous, it’s crazy! I don’t understand it,” Joe Lavoro told KEYE outside the courtroom after his son’s first appearance. “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 I’ll be damned, this is wrong. This is damn wrong!”
Jack Holmes, Lavoro’s lawyer, agrees.
“I was outraged. 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 KEYE.
“They’ve weighed baked goods in this case,” Holmes laughed. “It ought to be a misdemeanor.”
Lavoro, a former high school football star, has a clean record.
“First-time offenders are treated differently,” Williamson County Prosecutor Travis McDonald told the Associated Press. “As far as I know, he is a first offender.”
“If he did something wrong, he should be punished to the extent that makes sense,” Joe Lavoro told KEYE. “This is illogical. I’m really upset and I’m frightened. I’m frightened for my son.”
Life sentences for non-violent marijuana offenses are not unheard of in the United States.
In 2011, a Louisiana man was sentenced to life behind bars for marijuana possession.
That same year, Oklahoma legislators passed a law allowing for life imprisonment for manufacturing hashish, which is made from cannabis plants.