In my latest Forbes column, I consider the case of Jacob Lavoro, the Texas teenager who faces a sentence of 10 years to life for baking hash brownies and cookies. Here is how it starts:
When Jacob Lavoro, a 19-year-old from Round Rock, Texas, learned that he could go to prison for the rest of his life over a pound and a half of cannabis-infused brownies and cookies, he was surprised. So were his father, his lawyer, and, judging from the plentiful press coverage, many other people. How could baked goods that are legally sold in Colorado (and soon in Washington) trigger a sentence of 10 years to life in Texas?
As Mark Brunner, first assistant district attorney for Williamson County, which is prosecuting Lavoro, explained this week, the jaw-dropping penalties the teenager faces illustrate how one kind of prohibitionist idiocy compounds another (although that is not quite the way Brunner put it). First, Texas law treats drug offenses involving "resinous extractives of cannabis" much more severely than offenses involving marijuana buds. Second, when calculating drug weight, Texas, like many other states, includes "adulterants and dilutants."