Most people would never suspect that I—a 53-year-old retired Navy veteran who is conservative to the core—would support the legalization of marijuana [“Texas High Ways,” October 2009]. However, I do. It has come to the point in the state of Texas where too much time and effort is being wasted by law enforcement trying to catch people with drugs, especially marijuana. This seems to be the only thing occupying the minds of our Department of Public Safety these days. If done right, legalizing marijuana would put the drug cartels out of business, save the state millions of law enforcement dollars each year, make the state some much-needed tax revenue, and probably reduce the consumption rate of marijuana among young Texans.
Marcus Wilbanks
San Antonio

I loved your article about Texas and cannabis legalization. I’m a cancer survivor living with complications from a bone marrow transplant. I was becoming a drug addict because I had to take so many painkillers. I convinced my mother, who was as anti-cannabis as you can get, to let me start smoking it. I haven’t looked back yet, and my mom is happy that her son is alive and not addicted to the plethora of drugs I was getting prescribed. I applaud you for having the courage to print such a fine story rooted in the truth of the matter. And I beg of you to keep the conversation at the forefront. The country desperately needs to be educated with truth and common sense. You’ve given the otherwise silent and disenfranchised a voice and much-needed hope.
Dustin Lavoie

No Child Left Behind

Your story about the removal of the children from the Yearning for Zion Ranch describes how difficult it was for Child Protective Services to discern what to do in these cases, with the future of more than four hundred children at stake [“With God on Their Side,” October 2009].

But it is what CPS does every day, every week, on hundreds of cases. The most important question in any case, as it was in the cases of the children from the YFZ Ranch, is “What is best for this child in these circumstances?”

That was the question we debated for each child in this case—and they were lively debates indeed.

Several strategies were discussed, including terminating parental rights in some of the cases, legally freeing those children for adoption. That option is always available to us, and it is used when it is clearly in the best interest of the child.

Arguments were made for a courtroom showdown, to send a message to the YFZ leaders by going to court to take away the parental rights of Warren Jeffs and others. In that scenario, the children would have been permanently cut off from their families while the state tried to find foster or adoptive families who could understand their strict upbringing of homeschooling, no outside social contact, modesty, and rigid religious practices.

Ultimately, we decided that it was in the best interest of each individual child to remain in the cultural and religious setting in which they’ve been raised, with families who now understand that they risk losing custody of their children if they engage in underage marriages and sexual abuse of girls.

And we are pretty sure that Mr. Jeffs and the other FLDS leaders got the message.
Anne Heiligenstein
Commissioner, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

I would like to thank you for allowing Katy Vine to concentrate on the issue of the 439 FLDS children removed from the custody of practicing polygamists in Eldorado. I am, however, concerned that the tone of the article left the reader wondering if perhaps polygamy is a valid alternative lifestyle as long as those practicing it are using their faith as an excuse to do it.

Polygamy is clearly defined by the United Nations as an abuse of women. Regardless of the religious justification and mental manipulation used to convince women to engage in the cultural practice, it remains a felony in all fifty states of our union, and for good reason.

While I believe Ms. Vine was attempting to be fair and balanced by depicting this culture as clean and wholesome—what with its gardening and bread- and cheese-making—I also wonder if she likes the idea of the decriminalization of a practice that could leave her great-great-great-granddaughter the legal concubine of some old man.
K. Dee Ignatin
Executive director, Americans Against Abuses of Polygamy

Ghost Buster

I was surprised, if somewhat chagrined, to see one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I know depicted among the eight scariest places in Texas [“Fear Factor,” October 2009]! I grew up in Cranfills Gap and in St. Olaf’s Lutheran Church in town and the old Rock Church in the country. My parents, all four of my grandparents, six of my great-grandparents, and five of my great-great-grandparents, as well as countless aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives and friends, are buried there. My experience is that this is a place of comfort, peacefulness, and refuge. Any spirits residing therein seem to be at peace without the need for haunting.
Christabel Bertelsen Jorgenson
San Marcos

Dropped Ball

I can’t complain about any one play on your list of the greatest college football plays [“Snap Judgment,” October 2009]. So I’ll just complain about the one you left off: November 9, 1974. Texas at Baylor. Longhorns lead at halftime, 24—7. Bears block a UT punt early in the third, and seven plays later, quarterback Neal Jeffery scores on a fourth-and-goal run. Baylor goes on a 27-point run to win 34—24 en route to its first SWC title in fifty years.
Lee Schaeffer

Let me drop this one on you: 1961. TCU at Texas. Sonny Gibbs to Buddy Iles. Touchdown. TCU 6—0. The Frogs also ruined the seasons of highly ranked Kansas and Ohio State but managed to make almost everyone else on their schedule happy.
Jan Ford
Indianapolis, Indiana