Teen faces life in prison for making pot brownies

Here’s another one.  Another story from the criminal arena that will have you shaking your head.  A 19-year-old man from Austin, Texas chose to make and sell brownies and now is facing up to life in prison.  OK, so I’m leaving out a few details.  He laced the baked goods with additional “ingredients” that were intended to get consumers “baked.”  Because he added marijuana and hash oil to the mix, he faces a felony charge with outrageous possible sanctions.  Welcome to Texas.

Texas law enforcement found at the offender’s apartment 1.5 pounds of brownies, digital scales, a pound of marijuana, approximately $1600 in cash and dozens of baggies with hash oil and marijuana.  Police came to his apartment because they received complaints about “marijuana use.”

In Texas, possessing 4 grams of hash oil is enough for a first degree felony charge.  Apparently, this defendant, who had never been arrested prior to this bust, had 145 grams of hash oil.  Hash oil possession results in much more severe sanctions than marijuana.  The THC level in hash is much higher than in marijuana.  It’s actually in the same penalty group as amphetamines and ecstasy.  Additionally, because the defendant used hash oil, prosecutors are permitted to add up the total weight of brownies and tag him with manufacturing and distributing 1.5 pounds of that substance.

This one concerns me.  Without question, the offender deserves to be punished, however, a potential life sentence for this offense is outrageous.  In theory, if he, or another potential offender were to sprinkle a little cocaine into a huge drum containing 10 pounds of beer, he could be charged with trafficking in 10 pounds of cocaine, because the entire contents of the drum would be weighed.  That doesn’t make much sense.

Here’s the good news.  Prosecutors have something called, “Prosecutorial discretion.”  This case cries out for them to use it.  They will hopefully come up with a fair sentence for what he chose to do.  I’m confident that the legislators didn’t intend on this 19 year old, with no priors, to suffer in prison for decades for this offense.  My experience, having been both a prosecutor and defense lawyer for over two decades, is that typically these types of offenders can turn their lives around.  Hopefully, prosecutors will give him a chance to do so on this one.