(This article by yours truly, appears in Florida Today Op-Ed page this date.)

Remember when cigarettes were the “in” thing? Teenagers like myself joined millions of kids aiming to be “cool.” Boys carried packs of Lucky Strikes in their t-shirt sleeve. Girls smoked daintily. My mother smoked Kents with the micronite filter because they were “healthier.” She died of cancer at age 55.

Throughout the 1930s to the 1990s, in nearly every scene, movie characters were filmed and photographed with cigarettes dangling from their fingers and lips. Images and billboard ads depicted Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and scores of other stars glorifying cigarettes as a tool for sexiness. Some medical doctors prostituted themselves by promoting the use of nicotine. Magazine ads were common, many portraying physicians holding a cigarettes saying, “More doctors smoke camels than any other cigarette.”

For nearly a century, no one listened to nay-sayers trying to convince us how nicotine was bad for our health, that it was addictive and potentially lethal. We didn’t listen. We didn’t believe nicotine was addictive. Meanwhile, cigarette companies exploded with profits as they enhanced the content of nicotine. Politicians were barraged with warnings and data, but that didn’t matter so long as the companies installed a new notice on the side of packs, warning that “cigarettes could be harmful to your health.”

Finally, toward the end of the 1980s, the verdict was in and everyone knew it, including manufacturers and politicians. No more ads, no more promotions. Rather, new ads told the horrors of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and cancer, all related to smoking. The cigarette business started to diminish.

Marijuana has since risen into prominence as the new cigarette of choice as folks refuse to believe that weed is harmful. Sound familiar? Too many people were serving time in prisons who were otherwise not criminals — sad but true. We began seeing casual scenes in motion pictures where kids and adults used pot routinely, much like cigarettes of yore. More and more, celebrities promoted pot as not only harmless; it was useful in the treatment of numerous diseases.

What the purveyors of pot failed to realize was how much marijuana was being psychologically glorified by adults, including family members, to young people. Here lies the potential damage to kids as young as age 10, because youthful users often grow into adults addicted to something worse. And that’s our fault. Out of ignorance, we have given legitimacy to recreational pot. Adult users have spread propaganda that harmless pot is not a gateway drug to harder substances. It’s true that not all pot users move up to harder drugs. But it’s also true that most addicts on heroin, cocaine and other hardcore narcotics started their drug life with marijuana.

Studies by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention found several health risks in using marijuana, including:

  • One in 10 users will become addicted;
  • Marijuana affects the brain, particularly learning skills, attention, decision making, emotions and lethargy;
  • Smoke from marijuana contains many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis

In 2016, marijuana was legalized in Florida for medical purposes. We’d be ignorant to believe that users will limit usage to medicinal purposes only. Recreational use will likely explode when and if marijuana is fully legalized.

Without question, marijuana is a mind-altering drug. Thus, it would seem only proper to allow pot for medical purposes requiring a doctor’s prescription, much like other pain killers and mind-altering drugs.

Enforcing laws for illegal possession of small amounts only, should be restricted to fines, counselling and other consequences besides jail time. Driving vehicles while high on marijuana should receive the same penalties as driving while drunk.

I’ve known youngsters who were affected by liberal parents who turned a blind eye to their children using pot. Those kids grew into full-fledged drug addicts.

We should do all what we can to avoid glorifying or sanctioning recreational pot for impressionable youngsters, especially pre-teens and early-teens. Those are the vulnerable years that can be negatively altered for life.

We must protect kids. It’s our job.



  1. Charles Pierce July 12, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

    You are holding up a glass of wine, Alcohol is a harmful drug also. It has caused more problem than the so called hard drugs. Like tobacco, the way to reduce the use of anything is to legalize and to heavily tax. We have waged a war on Drug since I was a child and before but have not been successful. I would ask you to go read the history of drugs before the passage of the 18th amendment. Legalize, Tax, distribution and control supplies. Selling to folks under 18 or not paying the tax should bring a heavy and swift punishment.
    I would like to relate a story that has some relevance on the control of things within the society. In the spring of 1964 I was sitting in a study hall period in my high school, 2 Federal Agents walked in and arrested one of my class mates for being a runner for the local numbers operation. Several years later I left the state, when I retired and return, Lordee Me it is not legal to play the numbers. A crime problem turned into a revenue source. We still have problem with Gambling but it is much easier to control.

    • Cliff July 14, 2018 at 4:05 pm #

      Hear, Hear, Charles!

  2. George S. July 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

    Great column today….you ever notice that they are building Dunkin Donut shops next to the medical marijuana dispensaries? Hmmmm

  3. R. Plager July 12, 2018 at 3:48 pm #

    The last time I smoked I was a Homicide Detective and smoked a cigar during an autopsy. That was 1955.

    Thank you Marshall for the excellent warning to all about the evils to smoke anything.


  4. Christopher Jones July 12, 2018 at 4:22 pm #

    A glass of wine is no comparison to marijuana. Not even close. I can drink one glass of wine, and not be buzzed, and not have a problem driving or with cognizant reasoning. Sure, too much, and it is a problem. But the long term effects of grass are the issue. How many times more tar exists in grass smoke than in cigarettes? Look it up on the net and realize that the long term effects … not to mention the whole gateway thing…are a medical consequence that the youthful user will deal with when they get older. Die of cigarette poisoning at 55 or die of grass poisoning at 55. Wow… what a choice.
    Legalizing it is simply moronic. Taxing it is equally moronic, because if you legalize it, every user will be growing it him/herself, and so where is the tax advantage?
    Watch someone cough up a lung, and think hard and long about the concept of legalization. It was cool because Barry O was in a smoke filled haze all through high school, and bragged about it. Great example for our younger and not so smart kids

  5. Charlie July 12, 2018 at 6:43 pm #

    Great reply Christopher
    Just what don’t people understand about “mind altering” ?

  6. Rick July 12, 2018 at 7:22 pm #

    Mr Jones, you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried to be on purpose. Just do a google search, “compare marajuina deaths to alcohol deaths” and read the articles where government statics show that alcohol is at least as deadly if not more deadly than marajuina. As consenting adults we should be able to chose how we would like to “alter our reality”. Also read your history marajuina wasn’t made illegal because it was dangerous it was made illegal because it was threating the lumber industry here in the U.S.

    • Christopher Jones July 13, 2018 at 3:26 am #

      Rick…you are comparing an apple to an aardvark. If you read closely what I said, I am not advocating alcohol abuse in any way shape or form. For many, it is a problem. Also right or wrong, it is legal. If you know anything about history, you know we tried prohibition, and that didn’t work so well. But so far, grass isn’t exactly legal, and the point is should we make it so?
      I know that grass is a gateway drug. Then again, I know that cigarettes are a gateway drug. While almost anyone with a scintilla of intelligence now knows how harmful cigarettes are to the human body, they are still legal for consenting adults. The facts you ignore and avoid are that the tar one inhales from grass is about 7 times the amount from a cigarette. Tar is the carcinogen. Ergo, what is some pothead doing to his/her body as he/she decides to “alter” their mind? In this day of letting everyone do whatever the hell they want, I don’t give a rip what you decide to do to “alter” your mind. (Why one would want to is beyond me, when we have such wonders to behold using our normal senses), Regardless, if you wish to “alter” your mind with any drug, I don’t care. What I DO care about is the person who lives a non drug life will end up having to pay for the fool who decided to “alter” their reality. That is what we inherited from Obama: giving everyone a license to act the fool. You want to do drugs? Sign the consent form that goes on record that YOU will pay for whatever health care you will eventually need. If you don’t have the money for it, then tough…you chose to “alter” your mind, suffer the consequences. Heck, I wouldn’t care if you tossed in those who smoke and alcoholics. You want to play? Then you get to pay. Eventually grass and cigarettes, unlike alcohol which can kill much faster, will kill you or make you sick. Me, my kids, and my grandkids don’t need to pay for foolishness. And you are the one doing it on purpose, not me. And please…google is a search engine of the uber left and it is slanted to their purpose. As a college history professor so brilliantly said many times, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.

  7. Tom July 12, 2018 at 7:33 pm #

    As always my friend, you are absolutely correct. I have a son who smokes, has had a heart attack, has C.O.P.D, and is still smoking. I am not 100% positive to this day that cigarettes were the total cause of my C.O.P.D. as I ran a janitorial company for several years and inhaled all of those wonderful chemicals, but I can tell everyone that since I quit smoking 20 some years ago, my C.O.P.D. has not gotten any worse, I am still here and kicking, driving cars for a car dealership every day, writing books, and raisin’ cane every once in a while…at 83, I can still do a lot of things many in the 60’s cannot do…my suggestion to anyone who wants to live a full life is Don’t Smoke, cigarettes, marijuana, the new steam-like faze, or anything else don’t belong in your body.

    • Christopher Jones July 13, 2018 at 3:31 am #

      Good for you Tom. Congrats on kicking the habit, and keep on raisin’ cane.

  8. Larry July 13, 2018 at 8:59 am #

    A few comments on your article. Marijuana may be the new cigarette, but I need some data – says who? Plus I’m guessing 8 of 10 cigarette users become addicted v. 1 of 10 joint smokers…not to mention cigarettes are cheaper and LEGAL. Mind altering, Yes – but “in the day” would you have rather busted an illegal pot party or responded to a mind altering alcohol raged domestic violence call? Alcohol of course is also legal and more obtainable by juveniles than pot. If you want to “protect the kids” abolish cigarettes and alcohol….good luck with that.

    Thanks for the good read,

  9. steve gure July 13, 2018 at 10:55 am #

    Common sense should tell us that marijuana is intoxicating and could be addicting One under the influence can be a doctor or a surgeon and could be a danger to himself and others. The last thing we need is another drug that destabelizes our behavior

  10. Bruce Morgan July 13, 2018 at 11:28 am #

    Like many substances abused in our society, marijuana is not a healthy habit. However, by far the greater harm is done by the criminal justice system enforcing the failed prohibition of the past century. I know many people of my generation have smoked pot for 50 years with no deleterious side effects. It’s high time to return to the individual the right to act in their own self-interest without fear of governmental over-reach. Legal coercion has not worked, and the hall mark of a civilized society is the absence of coercion.

  11. Cliff July 14, 2018 at 5:10 pm #

    You rolled right over a most obvious point. I smoked MJ for about 18 months in 1969-71. I also smoked Pall Malls. (I quit 39 years ago.)

    I think I only ever knew three or four people who smoked MJ recreationally who did not smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes are the gateway to smoking MJ. Researchers have found that in the brain, nicotine serves as a catalyst to the production of dopamine, human nature’s joy producer, leading in turn to the desire for something stronger.

    Based on my experience of being around, and knowing, MJ smokers, I’d say that at least 98% smoked cigarettes. My wife did, as well as I.

    I don’t think any informed adult doubts the gateway effects of MJ to drugs. But to denounce it and its risks for recreational use means that we should be hounding our state and federal elected representatives to criminalize cigarette use immediately.

    And let’s not even get started on alcohol with its effects on the brain, as well as on the liver. But it’s legal! Let’s hound our state and federal representatives to criminalize alcohol, too.

    If you argue about the negative effects of recreational MJ, you also have to look into those of cigarettes. Cigarettes, long legal thanks to Big Tobacco, are fraught with deleterious health effects as well. Check out something else that scientists have found about nicotine in the brain.

    The use of recreational MJ should be a choice that every American adult can make, as he or she does for everything else, which should be in a responsible manner. That responsibility includes the knowledge of risk that one assumes.

    We deal, and have dealt, with the harmful and painful effects of cigarettes and alcohol for the better part of a century in our country. In light of the sickening image that cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking create for children, it seems somewhat equivocating to want to keep recreational MJ out of the marketplace for adults while those two continue to exist legally. Adults smoking MJ no more glorifies it to children and teens than adults smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

    If Florida fully and completely regulates recreational MJ – its growth, processing, sale, and use – then those who wish to acquire it and enjoy its use can do so legally while the state profits from additional revenue.

    After some thought, I have developed a proposed a growth-to-use system that would fully and completely control recreational MJ, assuming of course that those involved avoid the proscriptive conditions.

    The wrong thing to do, in my view, is to attempt to model our system after one or more of the systems in place in the states that now allow recreational MJ. We should model our own after learning of the pitfalls experienced in those states.

  12. Jan Siren July 14, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

    Charles Pierce and Bruce Morgan have it mostly right. My view is, if marijuana is as harmful as alcohol, then regulate it the way we do alcohol. Set a minimum age for use, and severe penalties for using while driving (that is, once a roadside test for marijuana intoxication, as reliable as roadside testing for alcohol intoxication, is developed – not before!). Otherwise, let’s not waste society’s resources on over-regulation.

  13. marvin July 15, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

    I thought that it was originally made criminal because of the rope industry. The hemp made better rope and was cheaper. My gateway to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes was the movies. A glass of ” redeye” straight from the bottle and roll your own cigarettes. The second reason is the same reason that it is illegal, spirits, wine and beer lobbyist. I am only left with the cigarette habit now. Some years ago we stopped advertising hard liquor on TV. Well, it has come back with high fashion and style, promising that you will have boats, the woman on a big yacht. I have played chess with MJ smokers who never lost their wits and they have been smokers for 40-50 years. Immature actions follow the novice when the brain is altered no matter the substance. The worst that I ever got from a recreational user was to have to run him down. They are already out there in the automobiles and the boats. I do not expect any increase in damage to our society in any substantial measurable degree.

  14. TC August 20, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

    It would be nice if people really let the studies determine the affects of smoking MJ. Since it is a Schedule 1 drug, there has been no studies of MJ.
    So please stick to the facts and quite scaring people away from a Drug that puts the pharmaceutical companies to shame and is better than anything they have put out.

    Stick to the facts… no more hype and lies…