Jacob Lavoro is a 19-year-old Texas youth who is charged with a crime that even under tough anti-drug laws in that state would normally be a misdemeanor. But a bizarre and seemingly nonsensical technicality turns his violation from a minor offense to a first-degree felony that carries a maximum life sentence — making what Jacob Lavorno did in the eyes of Texas law a crime as serious as murder.
Here’s what Jacob Lavoro, an otherwise ordinary teen from Round Rock, Texas, who has no previous criminal record, did to warrant this possible punishment.
He baked some pot brownies.
But here’s the mind-boggling catch that could put this 19-year-old in jail for life, or at the very least, five years. He used a recipe that called for hashish oil in the brownies. For some reason, under Texas state law, that one step allows the state to measure not only the weight of the drugs, but the weight of the entire brownie or batch of brownies.
In other words, the sugar, butter, cocoa powder — or Betty Crocker mix — all count as “illegal drugs” when police determined the charge they would bring against Jacob Lavoro. So by the state’s calculation, his pot brownies put Lavorno in possession of 660 grams or just under a 1 1/2 pounds, of illegal drugs.
Hashish is the same drug as marijuana, from the same plants, but it contains somewhat higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the active ingredient in pot — and pot brownies.
But under Texas law, the fact that he baked pot brownies with hashish instead of marijuana makes Lavoro’s batch of pot brownies worth a first degree felony, just like murder. In fact, as a recent report on an Austin TV station pointed out, a man recently convicted of murder in Williamson County was hit with a 20 year sentence. Jacob Lavorno could end up in prison for that long, or even longer, for baking some pot brownies.
“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,” said the teen’s lawyer, Jack Holmes. “They’ve weighed baked goods in this case. It ought to be a misdemeanor.”
Lavoro’s father says he is now terrified for his son’s fate.
“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 I’ll be damned. This is damn wrong. If he did something wrong, he should be punished but to the extent that makes sense. This is illogical. I’m really upset, and I’m frightened, I’m frightened for my son.”
If Jacob Lavoro does indeed receive a life sentence for baking pot brownies, he would be far from the first American to receive a life term for a nonviolent marijuana offense. The site LifeForPot.com, which monitors marijuana sentencing, lists more than 20 people currently serving life terms for nonviolent, marijuana-related offenses.