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A life sentence for pot brownies? Sounds ridiculous, right? And that's because it is.
Not just in the sense that the legal outcome of a Texas 19-year-old's amateur pot bakery should be a lifetime behind bars, but also in the sense that news sources have blown this one way out of proportion. It's time for a legal reality check.
What's really going on in this teenager's pot brownie case?
What Are the Allegations?
Jacob Lavoro, 19, is alleged to have been baking marijuana brownies and cookies inside his Round Rock, Texas, apartment. According to Austin's KVUE-TV, police found marijuana, THC brownies, cookies, and hash oil inside Lavoro's apartment. They claim he was selling the brownies for $25 a pop.
So Lavoro isn't accused of being some punk kid sitting at home eating pot brownies with his giggly college friends, he's alleged to be a somewhat sizeable pot dealer. Texas law, like the laws in many states, allows authorities to include the weight of "adulterants" in the total weight of the drugs for charging purposes. So police weighed not just Lavoro's allegedly "magic" brownies, but also the hash oil and other THC extracts found in his apartment.
That's why Lavoro is alleged to have possessed about 1.5 pounds of illegal drugs, for which the maximum sentence is 99 years in prison.
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No Indictment Yet
While Lavoro was arrested on drug charges in April, the state of Texas still needs to prove that the charges are based on probable cause for the teen to face any prospect of prison time -- much less life in prison. This is typically accomplished with a preliminary hearing, a sort of mini-trial which establishes that there's enough evidence for the case to proceed to a real trial.
Lavoro has not yet had a preliminary hearing, nor has he been indicted on any charges. KVUE reports his next court date isn't until August, so an indictment isn't likely to happen for weeks.
Motion to Suppress
The pot brownie teen's attorney has also filed a motion to suppress, challenging the legality of the Round Rock officers' search. Chief among the arguments is that police announced themselves as maintenance men when they knocked on Lavoro's door, reports the Austin American-Statesman.
If this motion succeeds, if prosecutors drop/lessen the charges, or if a judge determines Lavoro's conduct to be undeserving of a felony, then Lavoro won't be "facing" 99 years in prison. But that analysis may not make for a very good headline.