Regarding your editorial on the proposed legalization of medical marijuana in Maryland, it's true that anyone in California who wants a medical marijuana recommendation can get one ("Due caution," March 12). The recommendation allows consumers to purchase locally grown marijuana of known quality and safety from dispensaries that generate tax revenue.

That's a good thing. So-called medical marijuana abuses are not to be feared. It's the status quo that's scary. As long as there is a demand for marijuana, there will be a supply.

Is it somehow preferable that consumers purchase untaxed, unregulated and potentially unsafe marijuana from criminals? Marijuana prohibition keeps violent drug cartels in business. When cartels control marijuana distribution, consumers are exposed to illegal cocaine, meth and heroin.

This "gateway" is a direct result of marijuana's illegal status. Marijuana may be relatively harmless, but marijuana prohibition is deadly.

Robert Sharpe

The writer is a policy analyst for the public interest group Common Sense for Drug Policy.

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