Thanks to draconian drug laws in Texas, a 19-year-old man is facing life in prison over less than two pounds of hash-infused cookies and brownies.
Jacob Lavoro, a resident of Round Rock in suburban Austin, was arrested in April when police found about a pound and a half of hash brownies and cookies in his apartment. He is charged with a first-degree felony and faces between five years and life in prison.
Under Texas law, prosecutors could count every part of the food as cannabis, not just the hash that was cooked into it. So Lavoro was looking at a felony possession charge on the weight alone.
But state law also treats marijuana extracts and concentrates much more severely than plant bud. Possessing more than about 14 ounces of concentrate is punishable by between 10 years and life in prison. The punishment for possessing the same amount of dried plant? Six months to two years.
Police accuse Lavoro of trying to sell his hash edibles, and say they found $1,675 in cash, digital scales, dozens of small plastic bags, and a pound of processed marijuana at his apartment, as well as 145 grams of hash oil.
But many observers are outraged that possession of a drug that is now legal in two states – and may be legal in Texas in a matter of years – could land someone in prison for the rest of his life.
“It’s outrageous, it’s crazy!” said Lavoro’s father, Joe Lavoro. “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!”
Williamson County District Attorney Travis McDonald said his office was following the law. Sentences depend on aggravating and mitigating factors. And a plea deal is possible, he said.
“First-time offenders are treated differently,” McDonald said. “As far as I know, he is a first-time offender.”
Under state law, possession of 4 grams of hash oil is a first-degree felony, and McDonald noted that Lavoro had 145 grams. Texas treats hash oil more like methamphetamine and ecstasy than regular marijuana, even though the chemical composition of hash oil is no different than that of cannabis.
Lavoro’s attorney, Jack Holmes, said it was ridiculous that Lavoro was charged with a first-degree felony rather than a misdemeanor.
“I was outraged,” Holmes said. “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. They’ve weighed baked goods in this case. It ought to be a misdemeanor.”