Regarding Ruth Marcus’s Jan. 3 Washington Forum column “This weed should be yanked out”:

Adolescents’ consumption of alcohol and tobacco is at historic lows. These results have been achieved not by criminalizing these substances for adults, but by legalization, common-sense regulation and public education. Lawmakers in Colorado (and soon, Washington state) are applying these tried-and-true principles to cannabis.

We should welcome the arrival of these necessary and long-overdue controls to the cannabis market. A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults but restricts its use among young people — coupled with a legal environment that fosters open, honest dialogue between parents and children about cannabis’s potential harms — best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse. The ongoing criminalization of cannabis only compounds these risks.

Paul Armentano, Washington

The writer is deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Ruth Marcus acknowledged that marijuana is less dangerous than cigarettes and alcohol; having lost a much-loved relative to lung cancer, I agree. Then she said that if marijuana is legalized, use among teenagers is likely to increase and that marijuana impairs the IQ development of teenagers.

This may be true, but the only people I have known whose lives were damaged by marijuana had their lives damaged by being arrested for possession of the drug for private use. I have never heard of someone dying from an overdose of marijuana. It does not make people violent. If it is a gateway to hard drugs, this is because a drug dealer who can sell someone marijuana may also be able sell that person hard drugs. That gate will close if marijuana can be purchased legally in drug stores and liquor stores.

John Engelman, Wilmington, Del.

Ruth Marcus argued that our kids will be worse off under a regime of legalized marijuana. As a non-user, I vehemently disagree.

Legalizing marijuana might lead to increased use. But keeping it illegal doesn’t address the underlying factors that lead youth to abuse the drug, nor does it keep it out of their hands. Being “unreachable” makes marijuana more desirable and being illegal makes it less safe.

In her closing, Ms. Marcus called the imprisonment of pot smokers “dumb and wasteful.” It’s much more than that, and it warrants stronger condemnation. The war on drugs ruins the lives of our kids by throwing them in prison with hardened criminals for the mostly nonviolent, victimless “crime” of taking a toke.

The prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s fueled violent gang warfare on our streets. Likewise, the prohibition of marijuana and other drugs feeds the cartels, which wreak havoc just south of our border.

Bringing this black market into the light by repealing laws against the use of marijuana is the moral next step. Then we can address issues of abuse through counseling and medicine, not through laws and prisons.

Brandon Wasicsko, Arlington

Regarding the Jan. 3 question-and-answer “Marijuana: Key questions answered”:

Finally, some focus on the physiological and psychological effects of what so many think is an innocuous drug.

As a nurse who worked with adolescents in substance abuse prevention and intervention, I have been amazed that most of the information available to the public as this debate has intensified has been about sociological and financial aspects of our treatment of this substance — whether its use should be legalized, and how doing so would affect the public purse. As discussed in the article, however, it is obvious that marijuana use especially affects people negatively when they begin using it at a young age.

We have worked hard to reduce tobacco use but now may approve smoking marijuana for adults, which of course encourages teens to follow suit. We must continue to focus on the negative effects of this substance if we don’t want to confront some of the same problems, and worse, that we have already worked so hard to eradicate.

Margaretta Smith, Ashburn

To the question “Should you use marijuana if you’re pregnant?,” the article “Marijuana: Key questions answered” provided a 56-word response that referenced studies showing a host of adverse effects on babies born to mothers who regularly used marijuana but concluded that more research is needed to account for environmental factors. Here’s the one-word answer that should have been given: “No!” If that seemed too short, the writer could have added “duh” for emphasis.

Katherine Marshall, Potomac