What Happened to This Teen Is Exactly Why We Need to Decriminalize Marijuana

Make a mental list of every crime you think deserves a sentence of life in prison. Was selling pot brownies on it?

Jacob Lavoro, a 19-year-old from Texas, could be facing that penalty after his arrest in April during which police found nearly a pound and a half of hash brownies and cookies in his apartment. Lavoro was apparently going to sell them for $25 each.

Because of Texas' ridiculous state laws, he could be looking at life in prison. The antiquated rules penalize marijuana brownies 20 times more than marijuana itself, because sometimes things are just awful and the only recourse is to yell about it until something changes.

Let's compare: Here are a few crimes with more lenient prison sentences found by doing a quick Google News search.

A former high school teacher in Alabama got five years in prison for three counts of second-degree rape of a minor.

Two members of a heroin ring in Wisconsin got sentences of 30 months and 21 months.

An Illinois man got three years in prison and four years of extended supervision for killing his passenger after drunkenly crashing his car into a tree.

Two men in Massachusetts were sentenced to nine to 10 years and five to seven years, respectively, for kidnapping and torturing a woman.

Heroin distribution, drunk driving homicide, rape, kidnapping and torture all came with sentences way shorter than life and, in all but the last case, equal to or shorter than Lavoro's potential minimum sentence. And these are cases from just the past few days.

Still a chance: Texas law is stricter on cannabis concentrates than normal marijuana. (Possessing 400 grams of the latter gets you six months to two years in prison.) While Lavoro was found with 145 grams of hash oil, his lawyer says that a lab test showed the brownies only contained 2.5 grams of THC, the drug's key ingredient.

Yet, there are already two states — Colorado and Washington — in which recreational marijuana is legal. Colorado requires that edible products contain 10 milligrams of THC per serving.

Prosecutors have offered a plea deal that would avoid a long prison sentence, but Lavoro's lawyer told reporters he's worried about the strict requirements that would come with it. In September, the attorney will argue that the police unlawfully searched Lavoro's apartment, which would render the whole thing moot.

"I'm scared. Very scared," Lavoro said, according to the AP. "I'm 19 years old and still have a whole life ahead of me. Take that into account."

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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