Your recent editorial on medical marijuana was yet another attempt to frame the legalization debate in terms of public safety, which is nothing more than a convenient smoke screen ("Go slow on marijuana," Jan. 3).

If our leaders cared one wit about public safety as it concerns drugs, most of the prescription medicines advertised directly to consumers would be taken off the shelves.

Marijuana has been studied to death already, not for its medical benefits but for its potential harm. And the sole reason for that is so the authorities can find a medical reason for its continued illegality.

Given all the time and money and resources that already have been spent on this project, if they haven't yet proven that marijuana is dangerous they probably never will. Instead, the arguments against pot will continue to be anecdotal at best.

When one considers the individual and social costs of alcohol abuse, and the dangerous side-effects of most medicines on the market, the prejudice against marijuana can be seen for what it really is: a remnant of the establishment's battle against the counter-culture of the 1960s and '70s.

Nothing is more symbolic of that era than the marijuana leaf and the peace sign — both of which are still abhorrent to the ruling classes because of what they initially stood for: Peace and brotherhood.

There is little money to be made from that. America still prefers to make its money the old fashioned way, by fighting wars.

Charles E. Hilton