Is America Going to Pot?
The question is not whether marijuana is good for you but whether it is so bad that people should be put in jail for personal use [SOCIETY, Nov. 4]. The answer, based on your story and research on both sides of the issue, is clearly no. Legalize it and regulate it. ROY HOBBES Rio de Janeiro
TIME's coverage of the medical marijuana controversy was thoughtful and scrupulously researched. But what argues most persuasively for a ban on marijuana is the extraordinary threat the drug poses for adolescents. Marijuana impairs short-term memory, depletes energy and impedes acquisition of psychosocial skills. Perhaps the most chilling effect is that it retards maturation for young people. A significant number of kids who use lots of pot simply don't grow up. So it is hardly surprising that marijuana is the primary drug for more than half the youngsters in the long-term residential substance-abuse programs that Phoenix House operates throughout the country. MITCHELL S. ROSENTHAL, M.D. PRESIDENT, PHOENIX HOUSE New York City
Of all the risks involved with pot smoking, the biggest one is getting arrested and thrown in prison with violent criminals. Last year more than 734,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana violations--more than for murder, rape, armed robbery and assault combined! Our court system and prisons should be reserved for people who harm others--not just potentially themselves. KIRK MUSE Mesa, Ariz.
Used in moderation, neither marijuana nor alcohol will ruin your life. But if you're caught with pot, the legal system will see to it that your life becomes a shambles. Sanctioning alcohol use while persecuting pot smokers is the height of hypocrisy. Thank you for providing the facts so Americans can make up their minds intelligently. STU ALDERMAN Reno, Nev.
Successful, hardworking people smoke marijuana. To paint them as dumb and on the way to using other drugs is no different from characterizing those who drink alcohol as reckless drivers and child abusers. KIRK BATTLE Conway, S.C.
I fail to see how legalizing a drug that impairs one's ability to concentrate and retain information can be viewed as good public policy. I have worked in drug-treatment centers for more than 20 years, and I continue to see clients who identify marijuana as their gateway drug to alcohol, cocaine and heroin. PHYLLIS SELLNER Indianapolis, Ind.
The claim that marijuana is a gateway drug is true for one reason: to buy pot, one must rely on an illegal-drug dealer. This dealer probably has connections to other illegal substances like cocaine and heroin. Legalize pot, and the connections will be severed. The government is wasting too much money fighting a drug that at best has medicinal value and at worst is not all that dangerous. The war on drugs would gain credibility if pot weren't enemy No. 1. BENJAMIN L. MOAN Flagstaff, Ariz.