Judge rails against marijuana

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Blair County judge told a 15-year-old youth on Monday that she hopes there is no second mistake in his behavior.

“What I’m looking at today is a great kid who made one mistake,” Judge Elizabeth Doyle said when addressing an Altoona Area Junior High School student accused of selling marijuana to another student.

Doyle said she reviewed the boy’s academic record and saw his excellent grades and participation in school activities. She also noted the severe sanction – expulsion – handed down the by the school district for the first-time offender who was in juvenile court, dressed in a white shirt and tie, accompanied by both parents.

“Another school district is going to be lucky to get you, if you don’t make another mistake,” Doyle said.

While the national debate over legalizing marijuana seems to be generating a message falling on today’s youth that marijuana use is OK, Doyle provided the opposite conclusion.

“It is not OK,” she told the youth seated in her courtroom.

But she also asked the youth about his age.

“Fifteen is an age where you act without thinking,” the judge said. “You need to be thinking: That was my one mistake.”

She offered a similar message for his fellow student, the one who was trying to buy the marijuana, when he was in her courtroom later in the morning.

“Marijuana is illegal in Pennsylvania,” the judge said. “It’s also bad for your brain at a young age.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics is on record against the legalization of marijuana based upon research showing detrimental effects on adolescent brains that remain under development. The academy also linked its stance to surveys that showed teens believing that if marijuana is available for use as a medicine, then it must be safe.

Doyle, when addressing the youngster purchasing the marijuana, asked him about his punishment by the school district. The youth was suspended 10 days, but he said he was able to finish the year with passing grades. His parents also accompanied him to court.

“How do you feel about taking $150 from your parents (to buy the marijuana)? ” Doyle asked.

“Not good,” the youngster answered.

“It’s good you acknowledge your mistake,” the judge answered.

An agreement mostly worked out by representatives for the district attorney’s office and private attorneys representing the students and their parents will require both students to have no contact with each other for the next six months. It also called for a 9 p.m. curfew for each youth, community service requirements and supervision by the juvenile parole and probation office.