Regarding the July 12 editorial “Weeding out synthetic drugs”:

The use of so-called synthetic marijuana is an unintended side effect of the war on natural marijuana. Consumers are turning to potentially toxic drugs, made in China and sold as research chemicals before being repackaged as incense for retail sale in the United States. A punitive criminal justice system incentivizes use. These chemicals cannot be detected by standard drug tests. Some people use synthetic drugs to escape detection.

Cracking down on retail sales will drive users to the Internet, where dangerous synthetic highs are readily available. A better solution is to legalize retail marijuana sales and stop drug testing for marijuana.

Taxing and regulating marijuana would eliminate the demand for synthetics, provide consumers with a safer alternative to alcohol and close the gateway to hard drugs by taking marijuana distribution out of the hands of criminals. Marijuana may be relatively harmless, but marijuana prohibition is deadly.

Robert Sharpe, Arlington

The writer is policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.