COLUMBUS — A Platte County District Court judge appreciated a 20-year-old Columbus man’s candor during a hearing Wednesday, but said the reason for it better not happen again.

Judge Robert Steinke said Ryan Ramirez was honest as he answered “yes” when asked if he had recently smoked marijuana, but “no” when asked several times if he was under the influence of the drug Wednesday.

Ramirez told the judge he smoked pot at 2 p.m. Tuesday, but had a clear head and was not influenced by the drug at Wednesday’s hearing. He pleaded no contest to two counts of attempted distribution of methamphetamine and one count of possession of THC wax, a concentrated marijuana extract.

“If you show up for a presentence investigation or sentencing under the influence, that would make my job easier,” Steinke told the defendant. “It would send a clear signal to me that you’re not a candidate for probation.”

Steinke told the defendant it's time to “balance the scales” in his life.

“There comes a time,” the judge said while rebuking Ramirez, “to choose freedom or take a ride down south (to the state prison).”

The judge scheduled sentencing for March 16.

The meth distribution convictions are Class 2A felonies, each punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. The conviction for THC possession is a Class IV felony with a maximum penalty of two years in prison, 12 months of post-release supervision and a $10,000 fine.

Ramirez initially faced two meth distribution counts that carried maximum penalties of 50 years behind bars. The prosecution agreed not to oppose probation at sentencing if that is the conclusion of the presentence investigation report.

The charges are in connection with a series of methamphetamine deals involving an undercover informant in late August.

Ramirez met with the informant in the parking lot of a local convenience store on several occasions to complete the drug deals, according to court documents supporting his August arrest.