Texas Teen Faces Five To Life For Selling Pot Brownies

brownies21n-3-webI recently discussed the impact of federal drug sentencing laws on the federal judiciary and correctional systems at the Seventh Circuit Conference in Chicago. A Texas case this week shows how such cases also inundate the state systems, including cases involving only marijuana. While marijuana possession and sale has been legalizes in Colorado and Washington, Texas continues to take a hardline approach to such cases. Jacob Lavoro is looking at a possible sentence of life in prison after being caught with 1.5 pounds of brownies and 1 pound of marijuana as well as $1,675 in cash.

He was released on a high bond of $30,000.

Even five years in this case is excessive in my view for pot brownies, particularly for a first offender. The case could have been charged as a misdemeanor as an act of prosecutorial discretion. However, Williamson County prosecutor Travis McDonald says that he just has to accept a plea deal.

250px-Chocolatebrownie220px-Unrolled_jointThe ridiculous range for selling pot brownies is often used by prosecutors to force people like Lavoro to give up his right to trial and accept a plea. Any plea. That is now the reality in both the state and federal systems where defendants cannot risk going to trial — a level of coercion increased by prosecutors who openly count stack by bringing multiple and often redundant charges to lengthen potential sentences. I have spoken with prosecutors who admit that, if a defendant does not do what they want in a plea, they intentionally run up the charges as a lesson to others.

The laws are written to guarantee years in jail for relatively minor possession cases. For example, Lavoro was also found with 145 grams of hash oil. However, just 4 grams of hash oil is enough for a first-degree felony charge. Hash oil is treated in the same sentencing category as amphetamines and ecstasy.

However, it gets worse. Under state law, by mixing the hash oil with the brownies, Lavoro can be charged with manufacturing and distribution of 1.5 pounds of that category of controlled substances. In other words, you can just charge the weight of the brownies as if it were pure narcotics.

38 thoughts on “Texas Teen Faces Five To Life For Selling Pot Brownies”

  1. Williamson county, where prosecutors suppress evidence of innocence and elect them to higher office. I think there’s a judge that just resigned.

  2. Respectable middle class people have a deep need to be doing their bit against ultimate evil, but how can they detect it?

    In the middle ages people believed that there were witches and heretics and those suspected could be tortured until they confessed then hanged or burned. These days association with mind altering substances other than caffeine and ethyl alcohol is used as a litmus test for evil. Good people believe that if they lock up a drug user or trafficker for 30 years, that prevents all the hold ups of gas stations and convenience stores, all the rapes of children and all the serial murders that those incarcerated would otherwise commit. If you look at it this way adding the weight of flour and sugar to that of the hash oil for a longer sentence makes sense.

  3. Paul, $1600 doesn’t go far, especially if he tries to hire a lawyer. Could be that’s all he had.

    1. If the cops were smart, they seized the money as proceeds of an illegal venture. He is probably getting a public defender, if he didn’t have other funds stashed.

  4. Paul, and whomsoever else:

    I find that I have not overstated my case, if only because I have no case.

    I do have a life. While it lasts.

    Because I find that “the rule of law” in its present incarceration, can, and does, require what it prohibits, I experience “the rule of law” as inescapably of an entrapment mechanism.

    After about 47 years of life on earth, I found that I needed “draconian” surgery to bring my risk of colon cancer within acceptable bounds; that surgery was a total colectomy with an ileo-rectal anastomosis, performed at the now-defunct Michael Reese Hospital, in Chicago, in the summer of 1986. At the time of my colectomy, my brother, J. Don Harris, Ph.D., was dying from metastatic colon cancer, the same sort of cancer that precipitated our dad’s death in 1972.

    Morphine administered for post-surgical pain dispatched me into the realm of what was later recognized as an iatrogenic drug addiction experience, during which psychotropic medications administered according to the highest standard of medical care available to me then culminated in a profound, oriented-times-zero iatrogenic dementia, which was, to whatever extent that happened, reversed after I was “detoxed” in the Medical Psychiatry Unit of the University of Chicago Hospital, in the summer of 1989.

    During the whole of my life so far, I have never actually found anything, except as I “looked” where it was and recognized what it was.

    Humanity, as a species, has apparently not yet looked where the problem of human law violation is; and not having looked where it is, has yet to have any actual opportunity to recognize what the problem of human law violation is; and has yet to have any viable opportunity to do anything effective as a remedy or as a preventive measure, that can actually abate the problem of human destructive violence.

    It is one thing to comply with social construction of reality norms and another to question such norms with scientific rigor while concurrently designing, developing, and testing a viable remedy for human destructive violence.

    Truth is that which, given sufficient time and effort directed efficiently, economically, and effectively, invariably prevails over falsehoods.

    The falsehood that some people can concoct a system of laws which is, by tyrannical, authoritarian fiat, be successfully imposed on other people who can not understand the system any better than those who concoct it is busy, methinks, engaging in a self-immolation of violations of law which are inextricably unpreventable because those aspects of “the law” which comprise violations of “the laws of nature” can never be scientifically (or biologically) valid.

    Methinks that humanity will have to disenthrall itself from the notion that human law built on errors of observation can ever triumph over the simple truthful honesty of a typical newborn human infant.

  5. The Drug War has failed as poorly as the War on Poverty. The citizens of this country need to declare a War on Govt. Excess and Taxes. That would succeed.

  6. This dude will be one of the Gray Cases in the future, as the laws under which he will be convicted will likely be tossed while he’s behind bars.

    Probation only is warranted.

  7. Why do we put up with the criminalization and incarceration of our poorest citizens and let rich people off the hook? There will be a reckoning some day. When you have nothing to loose you risk it all to make change. When that happens, the walls protecting the banksters homes will be meaningless. Keep pushing, your day is coming.

  8. RE: Paul Schulte, May 23, 2014 at 8:58 am

    If I know that something is against the law and I am likely to suffer greatly if I am caught, should I whine when I do get caught and punished? “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

    ***** *****

    Alas, as I read “the law,” the mere fact of my being alive is against “the law.”

    This is because, as I fathom “the law,” “the law” demands subservient fealty as a condition for not violating “the law,’ and the way in which I am autistic precludes my being capable of that subservient fealty, merely because I find that “the law” so profoundly internally and externally contradicts itself that there is no action I can undertake which cannot, after the fact, be proven in a court of “the law” to have been a violation of “the law.”

    My only recourse to living my life in abject, total, and irredeemable violation of “the law” is my now committing suicide before I was born. At the present time, it has been too late for me to have done that for more than 75 years.

    As my biological conception was, and remains, a violation of “the law,” is it my biological conception as a zygote that violates “the law,” or is it “the law” that now, in May, 2014, violates my conception as a zygote in late 1938?

    Is “the law” the master of life, or is life the master of “the law?”

    1. J. Brian – you have overstated your case. Making magic brownies and adding hash oil is illegal. Marijuana in any quantity is illegal. And those complaining about the flour, etc. being weighed, they do not take out the stems and seeds when the weigh the brick of marijuana.

  9. “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

    On the other hand charging someone for the weight of flour and sugar in the brownies seems criminal to me – which is the way they do it.

    From another article on this case, I think we can accurately conclude that ‘1.5 points of brownies’ actually referred to 1.5 pounds of brownies.

    Add a few drops of hash oil to brownie mix, eggs, oil, and water or milk and all of the sudden you are drug king pin who has manufactured more than a pound of dangerous drugs.

    That ought to make even tee-teetotalers made as hell.

    If this is an example of the work product of LE and prosecutors, then I think we can fairly conclude their budgets are far to large.

  10. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobsullum/2014/05/22/how-a-batch-of-hash-brownies-can-get-you-a-life-sentence-in-texas/“However things turn out for Lavoro, his predicament illustrates the extremes to which politicians can be driven by a blind, unreasoning hatred of psychoactive substances. To put anyone in prison for baking cookies that make people giggle—whether the sentence is one year, 10 years, or life—is beyond absurd, especially now that Americans can openly buy such treats from state-licensed stores elsewhere in the country. At some point this sort of confusing contrast has to make prohibitionists reconsider the wisdom and fairness of using violence to stop people from getting high.”

    1. If I know that something is against the law and I am likely to suffer greatly if I am caught, should I whine when I do get caught and punished? “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

  11. As best I have yet been able to observe and to learn, there is a phenomenon that may merit human attention. Perhaps the word, “mistake” is a useful name for that phenomenon.

    Why do people make mistakes? Is it true that people make mistakes or is it true that mistakes happen to people?

    On Tuesday of this week, my wife and I attended an “AARP Smart Driver™ Course” held at the Door County (Wisconsin) Senior Center. On page 6 of the printed “Guidebook” for that course is the following statement:

    More than 90% of crashes are preventable.

    I find that statement to be scientifically false. Alas, my bioengineering research suggests to me that mistakenly believing that any crashes are preventable makes crashes vastly more likely.

    Those automobile crashes which actually happen are the crashes which, in the exact context in which they actually happened, were actually unpreventable; else they would have been prevented.

    As a basis scientific principle, the only events (of any and all kinds) which actually happen are those events which were actually unpreventable. Also, as a scientific basis principle, every actually preventable event is actually prevented, for an event having been prevented is the only way to truly know that the event was truthfully and actually preventable.

    Therefore, all actually-preventable events are inescapably always actually prevented; such events never actually happen, and the consequences of preventable events are impossible to measure because the consequences never exist.

    For those who are not too terrified of actual science and actual scientific research, the June, 2014, issue of Scientific American may be worth reading, studying, and understanding, especially the article on pages 77-79, “The World Without Free Will: What happens to a society that believes people have no conscious control over their actions?”

    The readily observable fact, readily observed through reading many Turley blog threads and in many other ways, seems to me to be that the rule of law has become unmanageable, such that those held to account for deciding what the law is cannot agree among themselves, else there could never be a U.S Supreme Court decision that is not unanimous and without ambiguity or differences of opinion?

    It has been said by some folks (was Will Rogers one such?) that the problem humans have is not about human ignorance, the problem is about the things we hold to be true through social consensus that are scientifically false.

    The ongoing social diatribe regarding so-called “free will” has a simple solution, one that does not allow the actual construction of a “time-machine” that would allow going back in time and killing ones grandparents.

    As I observe, there are two forms of human will to action; one is “uninformed will” and the other is “informed will,” and there are two varieties of human will to action, one is “conscious will” and the other is “unconscious will.”

    Human actions, in this model, can happen in four ways:
    a) uninformed, unconscious will
    b) informed unconscious will
    c) uninformed conscious will
    d) informed conscious will

    I find that the above model is not accurate because it is incomplete. Information may be accurate or it may be inaccurate, and (therefore?) “uninformation” may also be accurate or inaccurate.

    Human action, in this improved model, can happen in eight ways:
    A) inaccurately uninformed unconscious will
    B) accurately uninformed unconscious will
    C) inaccurately informed unconscious will
    D) accurately informed unconscious will
    E) inaccurately uninformed conscious will
    F) accurately uninformed conscious will
    G) inaccurately informed conscious will
    F) accurately informed conscious will

    The first seven of those ways whereby human action may happen all contain one or another form of human error; the only one of the eight which does not contain human error is of accurately informed conscious will.

    However, an action based upon accurately informed conscious will seems, as I have been able to observe, to never result in a properly punishable offense.

    How can human error be properly punished?

    By more learning, and in no other way or manner?

  12. I’m going with a cake recipe from a convicted inside stock trader. Yummy with pot.

  13. US ‘justice’ system depends on these types of ‘crimes’ to stay in business. These are easy busts, easy convictions and easy money in the local tills. It keeps police, defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, for-profit prison staff and rhetoric spewing legislators in jobs. These simple drug busts are good for business, regardless of the real damage they produce.

    On the other hand of justice:

    “Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy Monday and agreed to pay $2.6 billion in penalties for helping wealthy American clients evade U.S. taxes in a scheme federal investigators said spanned decades.”

    Crimes that last decades and no one goes to jail. They on’t even have to release the names of the tax evaders. The shareholder pays the fine and the bankster crooks wander away to their chalets in the Alps. No real punishment. So not only do the bankster crooks wlk, but the tax evaders get a free pass!

    They are laughing all the way to the bank:

    “Hours after the Obama administration announced the criminal conviction of Credit Suisse on Monday evening, the bank’s chief executive, Brady W. Dougan, publicly reassured Wall Street that the punishment would not do much damage to his firm. The conviction, he said on a conference call, would not cause “any material impact on our operational or business capabilities.””

    It’s pathetic and it isn’t justice. Hopefully the backward TX justice system doesn’t sentence this pothead to a life term for political reasons….

    1. Rob – the DOJ has decided that the charges they used to convict Martha Stewart are not going to be used anymore. I don’t know if they are too busy defending themselves or what.

      pete – so in Alabama you can have a kilo for personal use?

  14. The hypocracy is stunning. Go 500 miles north and it’s ‘legal’. Just another example of the lawlessness our country is devolving to.

  15. With a pound of marijuana, he is well over the personal use standard. I would hit him with possession and possession for sale. He is a dealer.
    On a personal note, does he ship?

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