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Life Sentence For … Marijuana Brownies?

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A Texas man could get life in prison for making a batch of brownies.

The man, Jacob Lavoro, has been charged with a first degree felony for possessing 1.5 pounds of marijuana-laced brownies laced with hash oil.

The minimum sentence is 10 years, the maximum is life.

“It’s outrageous, it’s crazy. I don’t understand it,” Lavoro’s father, Joe Lavoro, said of the possible sentence in an interview with TV station KEYE. “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.”

Lavoro was charged with a first degree felony even though he has no criminal record. The charges were filed after police found $1,675 in cash, the marijuana, the brownies and five ounces of hash oil in the 19-year-old’s apartment. Hash oil is a kind of concentrated cannabis, and police say it was in the brownies.

Ten Years in Prison for 1.5 Pounds of Cannabis

Lavoro is facing such a harsh sentence because of a Texas state law that requires a minimum sentence, because the brownie mix itself counts as weight in how much marijuana he possessed, and also because he used a concentrated form of pot. The law requires a minimum sentence of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison for possessing 400 grams of concentrated cannabis (marijuana), writer Jacob Sullum noted. Lavoro’s brownies weighed 680 grams (1.5 pounds).

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“By comparison, the sentence for possessing the same amount of marijuana is six months to two years,” Sullum wrote. “In other words, the minimum sentence for cannabis concentrate is 20 times the minimum punishment for marijuana.”

Prosecutors in Texas are required to ask for minimum sentences under state law.

“They’ve weighed baked goods in this case,” Lavoro’s lawyer, Jack Holmes, told KEYE. “It ought to be a misdemeanor. … 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.”

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Mark Brunner of the district attorney’s office explained, “If I take 1 gram of hash oil and mix it (dilute it) into 500 grams of brownie mix, eggs, water, vegetable oil, etc., I now have 501 grams of a controlled substance. Not 1 gram, but 501 grams. I have taken a low-level felony and made it into a first degree felony.” Brunner added, “As prosecutors we are bound by what the law is, not what the law should be or could be.”

But Legal in Other States

Lavoro is facing a potential life sentence for making something that other states have legalized and are taxing: marijuana edibles.

The state of Colorado collected $6 million in taxes on recreational marijuana in the first two months that legalized weed was on sale there, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Food made from marijuana is one of the most popular products in Colorado’s cannabis retailers.

Colorado’s marijuana business is so profitable that some in other states are eyeing cannabis as a source of revenue.

“Just look at Colorado,” Ignacio Almazan, a pro-marijuana activist in North Carolina, told TV station WNCN. “They’re pulling in money left and right.”

A group of state legislators in North Carolina has launched an effort to legalize medicinal marijuana in that state. Medicinal marijuana is the first step on the road to legalization, supporter say.

News reports indicate that Lavoro is currently free on $30,000 bond. There is a strong possibility that Lavoro could get a plea deal.

Does the punishment fit the crime? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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