To the editor: The editorial claims, "...the fact remains that marijuana is a stepping-stone drug that leads ... to harder, more dangerous drugs..." I submit that this is an opinion with questionable credibility - credibility that is gradually losing influence to more reasonable, measured thinking.

The "fact" is, if someone has an addictive personality, it matters not what the drug, or when or in what order, it is started. They are just as likely to be "turned on" to a taste of meth or heroin, and then proceed to become a stark-raving alcoholic for the rest of their lives. The whole "killer weed" thing, along with pushing the "gateway" theory, is long overdue for retirement.

In my 60-plus years, I have personally known folks who have tried marijuana and said, "It didn't do anything for me." Likewise, I've known countless mature, productive adults, indeed senior citizens, indeed pillars of our local communities, that have either tried or smoked marijuana their entire lives, without the slightest inclination to try anything "harder."

Thanks in no small degree to the "War on Drugs," the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. In America, the number of people arrested in 2010 for non-violent drug charges was 1,638,846, including 853,838 for marijuana. In 2009, the number of Americans behind bars in federal, state and local prisons stood at 2,424,279 or one in every 99.1 Americans - the highest incarceration rate in the world.

In June 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring, "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

It is my prayer that more sober minds prevail and we put an end to this "war." We should all know that war is inherently cruel and destructive. A good start in halting this insanity has begun with the legalization of marijuana for medical reasons in 18 states. This past election day, small amounts for personal use was legalized in Washington and Colorado. The rationalization of our approach to this issue has begun.

The persecution of men and women for recreational use of marijuana destroys not just the individual, but their immediate and extended families and, indeed, the fabric of our entire society. Unlike alcohol, no one has ever simply smoked a joint and then went home to beat up his wife. No one has ever overdosed on marijuana. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it.

Just like alcohol after Prohibition, marijuana abuse needs to be viewed as a social disease, not a criminal offense. Our money would be much better spent on rehabilitation, not prison. Stop the madness!

Ritch "Doc" Santer

Mount Carmel