Herbert Dyer, Jr.

Just when you thought you’d heard it all….

According to USA Today, Damaine Mitchell, 19, of Westwood, Ohio, stood before Judge Melba Marsh on Wednesday charged with selling marijuana on June 12 in a parking lot. He faced a maximum prison sentence of 1 1/2 years.

Judge Marsh is a Hamilton County, Ohio, Common Pleas Court judge, and by all accounts, a fair and reasonable one. She talked to young Damaine as a concerned mother or aunt would. She told him that she would do whatever was in her power to keep him out of jail, including sending him to a drug treatment program. Indeed, if he completed the program she would not only not imprison him but would “expunge” the conviction from his record. Her only requirement, beyond successful completion of the program, was that he must stop smoking the demon weed.

"That's going to be hard for me to do, to be honest with you," Mitchell told the judge.

The good judge began a “negotiation” of sorts with the young man. Could he stop smoking marijuana maybe until April? If so, he’d have to submit to regular and (surprise) drug tests to ensure that he was following the straight and narrow.

Mitchell gets big points for honesty here. He told the judge point blank:

"That's going to be a challenge," he said. "I like smoking weed. I have been smoking weed since I was, like, 10-years-old."

Then the judge actually bent over backwards. Well, she asked, when could you stop? By Easter? Nope. Valentine's Day? "I won't want to," Mitchell told her. New Year's Day? Christmas? Thanksgiving? "If I put my mind to it I can, (but) I won't want to," he said.

That’s when our young defendant made a counter-offer.

"I know this is probably not the right question to ask, (but) can I get a little time at least (to) get one more joint in?" he asked the judge.

Incredulous, "shocked," even, Judge Marsh flatly refused.

"No. You can't have one more joint for old time's sake." she said. She then sent him back to the lockup for now – to let him think about it, I guess.


It’s unfortunate that Mitchell does not live in one of the two states which voted this past election to essentially legalize marijuana. Or in one of the states where medical pot is legally available.

It’s also too bad that this young man has been smoking pot since he was 10-years-old. He apparently does not have an extensive criminal background (never been caught before). And, it appears that there is no one in his life to advise him of how to deal with this first brush with the law.

His “addiction” is apparently severe. It’s unlikely that a treatment program of a few weeks, or even months, will break its hold. My guess is that he will take the 1 ½ years, do one, and begin the process of becoming a hardened and incorrigible criminal. He will then likely spend most, or a very good portion, of his adult life behind bars wishing every day that he had taken the judge's offer.

In my work with ex-offenders I see this kind of behavior almost daily, (although no one I've worked with has ever asked a judge to let them have one last fling). If this wasn't so sad, it would be funny. Sad..sad, sad.

But, Judge Marsh deserves lots of credit and kudos for at least trying.