For at least a year, polls have shown that a majority of Americans support marijuana legalization. Yet there remains an enormous disparity between the way cannabis is treated in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized recreational weed sales in limited amounts, and the approach taken by the other 48.
A case in point involves Jacob Lavoro, a Texas nineteen-year-old who faces a possible life sentence for pot brownies that would be perfectly legal here if made by an adult.
Our William Breathes, writing for Toke of the Town, Westword's pot-centric sister blog, reports that cops in the Texas community of Round Rock used "a legal loophole" to charge Lavoro with possessing and distributing 660 grams of hash, a felony that carries a penalty of five years to life -- "and all because Lavoro used hash oil instead of raw cannabis" in the recipe he deployed to whip up a tin of pot brownies.
Breathes explains: "According to Texas law, possession of even one gram of hash is considered to be much, much worse than possession of actual herb. Whereas you can have up to two ounces of herb in Texas and face misdemeanor charges and 180 days in jail, a single gram of hash is a felony with up to two years in the slammer. And in Lovoro's case, cops are charging with possession and distributing more than 400 grams -- even though he didn't have more than a few grams of hash oil to begin with."
Enter the loophole: The 660 gram measurement is based on the overall weight of the brownies. Never mind that the other ingredients used to make them -- including eggs, milk and brownie mix -- are available in your friendly neighborhood supermarket.
"I was outraged," Jack Holmes, Lavoro's attorney, said of first learning of the charges against his client. "I've been doing this 22 years as a lawyer and I've got ten years as a police officer and I've never seen anything like this before."
Jamie Spencer, legal counsel for Texas NORML, is similarly appalled. In an interview withTexas' KEYE-TV, Spencer said, "This case is the perfect example of the insanity of Texas' drug laws, especially when it comes to marijuana or anything where the active ingredient it THC."
Incidents like this one are likely to persuade even more people nationwide that the Colorado model is worth trying.
Granted, the average Colorado nineteen-year-old would be breaking the law by making pot brownies, too, since marijuana-product possession is only legal for those 21 and above. But if a local teen was prosecuted for such an offense, the result would be a relative wrist slap, not the prospect of spending a considerable stretch -- and perhaps a lifetime -- behind bars.
Here's the KEYE-TV report.
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Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa April 2013: "Marijuana poll: Majority of Americans support legalization, oppose federal interference."