Regarding Kristine Lessard’s March 2 Local Opinions commentary, “This addiction doesn’t follow any rules”:

It is a gift to all parents that Ms. Lessard was able to pen the story of her son Derek’s life and heroin overdose. Many parents may believe that their child’s marijuana experimentation is harmless and is perhaps even part of normal social development. They may also believe that, because they have provided so much to their children in terms of academic, social, recreational and material opportunities, this experimentation cannot possibly progress to heroin. Both of these beliefs are wrong. Also, in their desire to foster appropriate independence, they may miss the need for firmer intervention. I am grateful to Ms. Lessard for sharing Derek’s story as she grieves.

Janis W. Gold, McLean

Kristine Lessard’s account of her son’s tragic death from a heroin overdose was heart-rending, but she drew one false conclusion. Ms. Lessard said that her son’s drug problems began with alcohol, progressed to marijuana, then cocaine, and she concluded that marijuana legalization would “only facilitate the progression.” But the “gateway drug” idea was discredited long ago, except in one sense — that pot sellers likely are also pushing drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Prohibiting marijuana, a much safer drug than alcohol or tobacco, can only lead to more such tragedies.

Richard Kennedy, Lorton

The writer serves on the board of the Virginia chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.