This op-ed column appears in Florida Today for August 12, 2014. Photo is obvously outdated. Hope the message is clear.  

Marshall Frank: The dangers of marijuana


I’m a 30-year retired cop. I’m also the father of a lifelong drug addict.

I’ve witnessed the bane of the drug world on the inside and the outside, from a professional standpoint, as well as a personal one.

On its merit, I support Amendment 2, concerning the legalization of medical marijuana, on the November ballot. There are worthwhile uses for people with symptoms of nausea, glaucoma, seizure disorders and more. But we cannot be dismissive. There’s much more to the issue of using marijuana for medical reasons, or debating the pros and cons of pot in general.

If and when the amendment is approved, it would be naïve to believe that all marijuana use will be confined to health issues. Profiteers and users will exploit the new relaxations, which will transgress into abuse for purposes other than relieving pain and nausea. That’s a guarantee. I suspect it will open the floodgates for marijuana highs in the name of health care.

Yet, there are two reasons to support Amendment 2:

• It will alleviate suffering for many health-related symptoms

• It will alleviate court dockets and prison populations, thus saving hundred and thousands of non-dangerous people from being tagged for life with criminal records.

That doesn’t mean marijuana is not dangerous. Alcohol is dangerous, cigarettes are dangerous and the negligent use of prescription medicine is dangerous. Don’t believe anyone who tells you marijuana is not dangerous. It is.

The greatest danger is infesting drugs within the youth population. Teenagers are using illegal pot more than cigarettes. Here’s why:

• Pot is glamorized in the entertainment industry, cigarettes are not. In modern cinema, it is common to see actors toke up on screen (not cigarettes). It’s even more common to see role models such as Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber defy the law and encourage marijuana use among kids.

• In today’s world, adult users negligently sanction marijuana as a cool, harmless activity, giving teens the OK. That includes young parents who openly smoke dope around kids as though there was no harm.

Kids are where the dangers lie, because marijuana is absolutely a gateway drug for teens younger than 18. I know. My son was only 12 when his divorced mom — a regular user — handed him a joint, saying “Go ahead, try it. Don’t do it behind my back.”

The boy was a model student. Was. From there, it led to stealing his mother’s stash and selling it in school. He became a popular kid overnight. By the time he reached his late teens, it was time for something better, stronger, more cool. He had become immersed in the drug culture. During his early adult life, no drug was taboo. He did it all. Meanwhile, his life passed him by. It’s a tragic story that all began with a liberal-minded mom who provided the seed for future addiction.

Yes, his father was around, in and out playing tough love and soft love, struggling to make a difference, but that was nearly impossible when someone is hellbent on running away all the time.

So, is marijuana a gateway drug? It depends. Not all people who use marijuana will move onto harder drugs. But nearly all people who have used heroin, cocaine and meth used marijuana first. Adults who begin smoking pot in their late 20s and 30s might not use harder drugs. But kids are different. It is a major risk.

While enacting medical marijuana laws, Florida authorities must simultaneously embark upon a prevention campaign that targets the young with fact-based education announcements — similar to anti-cigarette ads — about the downsides of using pot, and there are plenty. Science has concluded that pot smoking among teens has a negative impact on brain function. It affects IQ. It diminishes ambition. Driving high on pot is dangerous, the same as alcohol, though less detectable.

Meanwhile, we should rebuke Hollywood and the irresponsible music industry for their roles in glamorizing drug use. It is critical that we protect kids from dangerous enticements. We must make a difference.




Marshall Frank

Got to disagree with you on this one Marshall. I will be voting no come election day. If it passes, as I suppose it will, due to the already stoned population out there every pot head and stoner will come up with a bogus prescription to get high thus risking my life and that of my family when we’re behind the wheel plus being subjected to home invasions and on the street robberies to support their habit.
As for alleviating pain there are all kinds of over the counter and prescription pain relievers on the market.

Marshall Frank
Howard Bernbaum

Bottom line. It is none of the Fedgov’s business what an individual ingests. That is a matter of personal choice. The war on drugs brought about the same criminality developed during prohibition. Prohibition did not accomplish its purpose and was abolished. The war on drugs should never have begun and should be stopped immediately. Contrary to some people’s fears, when prohibition ended, the only major change was a reduction in criminality, both in the civilian sector and the law enforcement sector. The general population did not go on a drinking binge. Those people who want to drink will find a way to do so. Those people who want drugs will find a way, also. However, that is nobody’s business but the user. Regardless of good intentions, intervention is an invasion of sorts.
As for crime, if an addict breaks the law after drug legalization, he should be treated as anybody else who breaks that same law. There are existing laws for criminality on the books. The war on drugs has been a disaster for millions of people and has been responsible for countless deaths in its application.
My heart goes out to Marshall for his travail but I completely agree with his conclusion. End the war on all drugs now.

ps. Charlie, old boy, you are as wrong as you can be. History has already shown us usage decreases with legalization. And, there never was a major problem when drugs were legal. Guess where Coca Cola got its name. Ask the oldsters who took paregoric as a remedy if it brought on addiction.

Marshall Frank
millicent gustafson

When my son was 17 he was caught with two “joints” in his pocket. he was arrested. the judge told him he was lucky. If he had more he would have been sentenced to prison for years ( I forget how many). I thought he had learned his lesson.
Many years later we learned he had progressed to the hard stuff. He wanted to get off it, spent six months living with us. Still his desire to quit failed when he went back to the same crowd and started again. He finally got off drugs for good after he almost died.
He joined N/A and has been drug free for 30 years. At a meeting, he met the girl he married. He has been, through his N/A connections, been helping others get off them. He and his wife are very active in the N/A organization.
Last year, much to his shock, he learned his 15 year old son was a “user” The boy is in a rehab facility where he is getting help…. a great expense . Putting his son there was one of the most painful things he has ever done, but he was not going to lose his boy.
I think I am going to vote “for” because there are people of all ages who will be helped by the drug. That has been proven. Those who want drugs will get them no matter if they are legal or not.
As we did alcohol, I think drugs should be legalized. Our country wastes billions on the war on drugs. It corrupts many who are supposed to be fighting it.Politicians, coast guard, cops, etc. succumb to the temptation of big bribes. It sends billions of our dollars to other countries which helps corruption run wild there.
I am against putting users in prison. It is a waste of taxpayers money which could better be used for rehabilitation.
I doubt there is a way to eliminate the demand for drugs any more than there is for the demand for liquor.

Marshall Frank
Robert P. Tucker, Ph.D.

Well said, Marshall Frank! Keep up the good work.

Marshall Frank

I believe there can be good and bad from this subject.
I truly believe that using marijuanna for medical reasons is good. For all those who have comments about how bad it is for you, look at all the other legal drugs that doctors prescribe for pain. On the other hand, having a cousin who was a wonderful kid and had a great life ahead of him, started to use marijuanna. He ended up dying from heroin use. I truly believe that most drug addictions stem from first using marijuanna. This is a fight unfortunately that will never end.

Marshall Frank
mike Wilson

Lets watch Colorado and Washington State- before we go off the deep end — Seems to me – our Daughter who was in great pain and in last stages of life – was given some sort of medical pot– so we already have It in this state— Life is full of good highs — use them with out dope!!

Marshall Frank

This is an interesting topic from everyone’s perspective… Marshall’s and his readers.

I respect everyone’s input and gives me food for thought…

Marshall Frank
Jack Milavic

For over twenty eight years the so-called drug war in Central and South America has been ongoing. During these years including this year the amount of drugs imported into this country has remained the same and the price adjusted for inflation also remains the same. We spend about a billion dollars a year in this war.

Pot seems to be a little less dangerous than Cocaine. Based on the assumption aforementioned I can only see the use of Pot remaining the same but not being purchased in alleys and from crazed drug dealers.

Marshall Frank

“On its merit, I support the legalization of medical marijuana.” As do I.

“If and when the amendment is approved, it would be naïve to believe that all marijuana use will be confined to health issues. Profiteers and users will exploit the new relaxations”.

Oh yes, unless people can be legally authorized to grow their own, profiteers will exploit the new relaxations.

Past history has provided us with enough evidence to verify that after prohibition, the alcohol industry set into inducing us to purchase their product

Just check out the adverts that we were subjected to well after the end of prohibition, yeah, from Budweiser through Jack Daniels

Currently, the standard is that alcohol advertisements can only be placed in media where 70% of the audience is over the legal drinking age. Alcohol advertising’s creative messages should not be designed to appeal to people under the age of 21, for example, using cartoon characters as spokespeople is discouraged. Advertising cannot promote brands based on alcohol content or its effects. Advertising must not encourage irresponsible drinking. Another issue in media placement is whether media vendors will accept alcohol advertising. The decision to accept an individual ad or a category of advertising is always at the discretion of the owner or publisher of a media outlet.
In the United States, there are several television networks that, although their viewers may be above the legal drinking age, do not accept “vice” advertising like alcohol advertising on principle. Currently the tobacco industry is forbidden to advertise on TV. Because of strong self-regulation, alcohol advertising has mostly avoided regulation by the federal government.
On October 20,1971, a U.S. District Court ruled that the Congressional ban on cigarette advertising is constitutional. after it was declared that
Nicotine in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products is a drug and these products are nicotine delivery devices under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act:
Nobody, absolutely NOBODY has had what it takes to declare that alcohol is a drug, perhaps as a result of assiduous, extremely well paid alcohol lobbyists.
That doesn’t mean marijuana is not dangerous. Alcohol is dangerous, cigarettes are dangerous and the negligent use of prescription medicine is dangerous. Don’t believe anyone who tells you marijuana is not dangerous. It is.

We can no longer buy off the counter cough medication without a prescription when we come down with a bad cough, since those who previously purchased them did so in order to run their meth labs.

But we can still purchase alcohol and cigarettes. What, exactly, is wrong with this picture?

The greatest danger is infesting drugs within the youth population. Teenagers are using illegal pot more than cigarettes.

Can not but disagree with you on this point. In the area in which I live, police are busting meth labs almost on a daily basis.

So, is marijuana a gateway drug? It depends. Not all people who use marijuana will move onto harder drugs.

Can not agree with your last comment more.

As far as I am concerned the problem appears to me to be that one of the most addictive drugs, namely alcohol, has managed to avoid regulation.

“Authorities must simultaneously embark upon a prevention campaign that targets the young with fact-based education”, and that must include the fact that SOME OF US ARE GENETICALLY PREDISPOSED to be susceptible to drugs.

Young people, and older persons, need to be very well informed that, as a result of their past history and possible genetic history they are incredibly vulnerable.

Oh. for goodness sake, give us a break here “Meanwhile, we should rebuke Hollywood and the irresponsible music industry for their roles in glamorizing drug use.”

We the parents are responsible for what our chidren view and listen to, teaching them the values of what is acceptable, and what is not.

Give up on blaming Hollwood and the music industry for all of our ills.

What a total cope-out.

Marshall Frank

If you take the personality out of the drug equation, it becomes a simple study in fundamental economics —– Supply and Demand. The war on drugs has cost billions and effected no change in either supply or demand. The problem is perhaps better defined: the demand is steady; and the supply is provided by criminals. Process of supply meeting demand also costs society billions in the courts and prisons.

Why not legalize all of it, sell it in state controlled “Drug” stores and tax the hell out of it. In so doing we creat American jobs in the manufacturing of the drugs, take crime out of the process, let our latin American neighbors go back to growing tropical fruit and coffee, and create a windfall of money that can be used on positive things.

Crazy? I don’t think so. The states already dispense methadone, for free, I might add. In most cases, the state is simply subsituting that free drug for the illegal ones in hopes of helping the addict, who now becomes addicted to the free drug that we taxpayers provide.

Ahh, but what about the kids?? As Dr Phil says: “Let’s get real”! What about the parents. That’s where the real war on drugs needs to be declared and fought.

Marshall Frank
J H Weis

I’m with Jose. Treat pot like cigarettes and alcohol. A further aspect no one has mentioned is the purity of the product. Unless this is controlled in some way, things could get seriously out of hand. Current drug use demonstrates this. Dead addicts don’t get much press, though, unless they are in the entertainment business–and I count sports as entertainment. I also agree with Mike. We have a couple states operating as test cases. Let’s gather data and make sensible plans.

Marshall Frank
Larry G. Tate MD

Mary Jane is a very dangerous mind altering substance and this is doubly so with regards to our youth whose brains are still forming useful correct pathways. Alcohol and many other substances are equally dangerous. Why not watch the Colorado and Washington Experience for five years and then just maybe we will make intelligent decisions regarding it’s legalization.
Our present day Narcissistic society will continue to feed their every desire and whelm rather than do something truely significant like gaining control and mastery over them.{desires, lusts, and cravings}.
We parents of this present day Narcissistic pot smoking generation are the primary reason we have the problem we now face. Had we been better teachers of the need to treat the body as the holy temple that it actually represents we might not be facing these difficult decisions today. But then we have all of those qualified parents that bloody well know all of the, as yet undiscovered, effects that these so-callled innoxious substances have on young developing Betz cells of our youth.
When did we quit thinking critically? Might be the second hand smoke from the dope!

Marshall Frank

Thought the column was balanced and well written. I always like to hear both sides and then a recommendation. Thanks,