Life Sentence For Marijuana Brownies? ‘War On Drugs’ Reaches New Heights Of Absurdity

hands on prison bars

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—the plasic
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This poem, attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) is a call to activism. It reminds us that when those who may have different views than us are threatened for no good reason other than those views, we must step up for each other and defend liberty against all tyranny. Something most people will certainly cheer for, but in practice, our laws and statutes tell a different story.

Most people, for decades, have been silent or worse over the course of the last 80 years in regards to our drug laws starting with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The tax act really wasn’t a tax. Long story short, the “tax act” essentially criminalized possession of any marijuana or hemp related products. Of course, in 1937, marijuana was mostly smoked by Latinos who brought it up from down south of the border and African Americans, as Jimmy Buffett and others have sang about over the years.  And after all, alcohol prohibition had just passed a few years previous, so in order to keep the most pious among us from being too mad, new demons needed to be created. That, along with pressures from the plastics (DuPont) and publishing (Hearst) industries in regards to marijuana’s close cousin, hemp, championed by people like Henry Ford (who was some punk upstart car maker in the 30s who had the nerve to pay his employees well), made marijuana a perfect scapegoat to be demonized and reviled.

Of course, scared white Americans cheered.

The tax act began a course of events that eventually lead to Richard Nixon formally declaring a “war on drugs” in 1971. After that, things began to accelerate, generally speaking. There was a brief moment of sane thinking during the Carter years, but then came Reagan and the inept yet popular “Just Say No” campaign led by 1st Lady, Nancy Reagan. But underneath the lame words, legislators were scoring big political points, especially in GOP and conservative circles (keep in mind that in the 80s, there were still some “conservative Democrats” in government) by writing whatever legislation they could to damn those evil drug doers more and more than the last guy. The Drug War in the 80s and 90s, along with saying  mean things about Saddam Hussein, was a way for those who were perceived as “soft” to gain themselves some “tough guy” bona fidas.

Many will remember how crack cocaine sentencing was made up to ten times harsher than those caught with the powdered variety. “Three Strikes and You Are Out” was passed in many states with much fanfare and high fiving going on at the time. Since then, these and some other laws have been repealed or curtailed as unintended consequences far outweighed any justice or determent the laws may have claimed to have offered.

Other laws, and the citizens of those states that have kept insane laws on the books, have not been so lucky.

In Texas, if you get caught baking some “special brownies” you have got some big problems, well beyond any you might have if you got caught with a bag of marijuana or in this case, a derivative known as “hash oil” which is extracted from the marijuana plant.

Instead of  the actual amount of the marijuana / THC / hash oil being considered, it is the actual brownies that are weighed. All the flour, water, sugar, wheat and other ingredients. So instead of the small amount of hash oil used to make the brownies being the amount considered, Texas authorities, under the law, are allowed to weigh everything to determine the severity of the charge. So a small amount becomes POUNDS of weight to be prosecuted. A misdemeanor becomes a felony. A felony that carries up to a life sentence, if convicted.

That is exactly what happened to Jacob Lavoro last month

Round Rock, Texas Police arrested Jacob for possession of some pot brownies he made. He now faces 5 years to life, if convicted. the charges levied here have shocked both Jacob’s family and his attorney, Jack Holmes,  who besides 22 years as an attorney, has 10 years of police work under his belt as well.

“It’s outrageous, it’s crazy! I don’t understand it” exclaimed  father, Joe Lavoro.  Jacob’s father made the comment outside the courtroom after one of what could be many court appearances for Jacob.  “Five years to life?” he continued.  “I’m sorry, I’m a law abiding citizen.  I’m a conservative.  I love my country.  I’m a Vietnam veteran, but I’ll be damned … this is wrong, this is damn wrong!”

Jacob, a former high school football player, has never been in any sort of trouble before this. His record is clean.  But in today’s America, having a conservative family and upbringing is no shield from the long arms of these outrageous laws. Unless, of course, you can just afford to arrange your desired outcome. But that isn’t possible for the other 99.9% of us, regardless of political ideology or loyalties. For the Lavoro family, like our families, they are at the mercy of the harsh Texas courts. Despite being “conservative” or a veteran or anything else besides mega wealthy.

So who will stand up against this outrageous injustice? 

5 years to life for an amount that should draw, at most, a 180 day to 2 year sentence under Texas guidelines,which are  some of the harshest in the country. That is,  before adding in all the unjust and gratuitous weight of the brownie ingredients.  Jacob isn’t being prosecuted for the amount of illegal hash oil he possessed, he’s being prosecuted for the amount of sugar, cocoa butter and flour he possessed. This is like charging someone found with a joint in their car with the weight of the car, instead of the joint itself. It makes no sense, especially in an era when the majority of Americans support marijuana legalization measures by a majority. It can only make sense if you are a greedy, ambitious assistant DA looking to make their bones on the backs of guys like Jacob.  Because it’s not about justice, it’s about their successful career path.

Conservatives and well meaning citizens cheered when these laws were imposed. Now that their ugly head has reared itself on one of their own, will any Texas conservatives stand up for Jacob? Will anyone stand up for Jacob or the countless otherwise law abiding citizens who have become victims of the de facto partnership between law enforcement and the private prison industrial complex? Will you?

The insanity needs to stop. This would be a pretty good place to start, at least in Round Rock Texas.

Let us all speak up in one loud and clear voice and declare that enough is enough. End the insanity or maybe next time it will be you, or someone you love that they come for.