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MILLERSBURG -- Focusing less on the crime and punishment and more on the long-term consequences, Holmes County Municipal Judge Andrew Hyde said he feels an obligation to share with defendants the less obvious risks of using marijuana.
The discussion occurred during the recent appearance of Methiah M. Miller, 25, of 6794 Township Road 79, Millersburg, who pleaded no contest to and was found guilty of traveling outside marked lanes and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The charges stem from a March 19 traffic stop initiated by a Holmes County sheriff's deputy. That's when Miller was observed driving left of center and off the right side of the road along state Route 39 in Hardy Township, said Capt. Dale Renker.
Miller said he was tired, but not impaired; and the pipe, located on the dash of the vehicle, immediately was discovered by the deputy, who smelled burnt marijuana, but did not observe impairment.
Regardless, Hyde used the opportunity to discuss with Miller the long-term consequences of smoking marijuana and driving, regardless of ongoing dialogue surrounding the proposed legalization of the drug.
The prohibitive level for marijuana in the system is 50 nanograms of marijuana metabolite, which is a very low limit and one that can be detected well after impairment has worn off, said Hyde, noting it becomes relevant when the simple mistake of "blowing a stop sign" is transformed into a felony offense, carrying the potential for a lengthy prison term, rather than local jail time.
"You can be charged even though there's no affect on your ability to operate a motor vehicle at all," said Hyde, explaining the quantitative measures outlined in Ohio law.
Consequently, he said, "The guy who smokes dope on a Friday and the next Thursday accidentally blows a stop sign and hits someone is going to be treated as DUI that killed somebody. I'm only cautioning you that marijuana and driving do not politely coexist.
"I see a duty here to tell people about a law that, maybe, they don't understand -- that you're (in common pleas court) looking at seven-eight years in prison, and that's if the judge wants to go easy on you. It's not as harmless or victimless as people think," said Hyde.
Hyde fined Miller $50 for the marked lanes violation and $150 for drug paraphernalia, imploring him to not only consider his educational lesson, but share it with others.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.