By Marshall Frank 

     (This editorial appears in the April 28 issue of Florida Today)

Legalize marijuana?  Well, there are plenty of pros and cons to go around.

As for me, my 30-year police career in Miami-Dade and my personal trials and tribulations have taught me that marijuana may have some positive points, but that doesn’t mitigate the harmful aspects. One of them is the gateway dilemma for graduating into drug abuse, especially among the youth.

Let’s start with the story of Bowen. This boy had the misfortune of being born into a family where his young parents would divorce and the mother retained custody of the child. I say “misfortune” because the mother was a flower child who thought the dangers of pot were overblown. She smoked pot regularly among friends and little Bowen. She even offered a joint to the 12-year-old child, telling him, “Here, you don’t have to do this behind my back.”

With tacit approval, Bowen not only became a regular user, he used to steal some of his mom’s weed and sell it at school. By the time he reached ages 16 to 17, he had graduated to every form of illegal drug use; heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and pain pills. It set the course for the rest of his very unhappy life. So, do not let anyone ever tell you that marijuana is not a gateway drug. Perhaps not for adults, but it’s a serious gamble for adolescent kids who are easily swayed by peers, by the ignorance of adult approval and by watching role models in music, movies and television where pot is glorified and often depicted as routine as eating ice cream.

As a career police officer, I would opine that 95-plus percent of cocaine and heroin addicts were first introduced to drug life by using marijuana.

Robert L. Dupont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, published an article in the New York Times in 2016 in which he concluded that most all heroin users began their drug abuse lifestyle with marijuana and/or alcohol.  He also stated that regular marijuana users in the early years are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin.

Some people will tell us marijuana use is not dangerous. That’s arguable according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), whose studies determined that in the state of Washington, since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, deadly car crashes involving drivers impaired by smoking pot have virtually doubled.  . also released a report regarding spiraling pot use in Colorado, where marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154 percent between 2006 and 2014.

Marijuana produces impairment, much like alcohol. But marijuana is much harder to detect and/or to measure, and it is easier to conceal. Thus, the dangers are enhanced. Other studies have concluded regular, long-term use of marijuana can result in lethargy and lack of ambition.

But it’s true too many otherwise non-criminals are wrongfully filling our jails and prisons at a cost of human productivity and wasted taxpayer dollars. We need to direct our attention to education, prevention and treatment as opposed to the waste of unnecessarily warehousing humans in prisons.

Marijuana certainly has medicinal benefits for people who suffer from epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and more. In one form or another, medical marijuana laws have now been passed in 28 states, including Florida. That sounds nice, but one cannot wonder what percentage of legal pot will wrongfully be attributed to “medical” purposes as a ruse for buying, selling and using it as a recreational drug.

If it is truly useful as a medical benefit, it should require a doctor’s prescription, rather than being an over-the-counter purchase like alcohol.

Above all else, I reflect on the horrible danger for young people using pot, which serves as a lure into the bane of drug abuse and the miserable life that goes with it.

I should know. That little boy I called Bowen is my son.


  1. Christopher Jones April 28, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    Brilliant and also sad. I can’t help but agree fully.

    • Edward A. Hensley April 28, 2017 at 3:43 pm #


  2. Tom Robbins April 28, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    Heartbreaking last line, Marshall.
    My 27 year old once sweet daughter was just sentenced yesterday to 32 months in prison, after several years of smoking pot, then snorting and needles, 2 or 3 times in and out of county jail, several rehabs. This is not devastating to her quality of life and happiness, but also to all of us who love her and hate to see her go down, and take us down, this path of destruction.

  3. Tom Robbins April 28, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    Not ONLY devasting…!

  4. Charlie April 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    When the prominent law firm was pushing to legalize medical marijuana I thought of course he wants that. Think of all the law suits brought about when pot heads under the influence start t-boning motorists while under the influence. Now that’s a reality. And if allowing everybody to buy it in any strip mall passes I think I’ll stop driving.

  5. Howard Bernbaum PE April 28, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    I hate to disagree, but:
    To start I am not a user and have never been. One of my children succumbed to the lure and I have many years dealing with him and his addiction.
    Notwithstanding and with consideration of all the problems, I believe there is a more important consideration. Freedom. \
    Freedom is the ability to do anything one wants so long as he doesn’t hurt his neighbor.
    Government does not have the right to tell anyone what he can put in his mouth even bad stuff. None of government’s business. Further, the war on drugs has been responsible for the growth in drug use and has made criminals of many in the enforcement business. Prohibition doesn’t work and never has.

    I don’t have the answers but believe the war on drugs has to come to an end. It is another step in the road to slavery being pursued by our liberal government.

    • Chris April 28, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

      I understand the freedom angle…but if something like this increases the accident rate on our highways (and statistics show that is true in CO and Wa.), then doesn’t it cross into hurting one’s neighbor? Even if you don’t get t boned, your insurance goes up. Lastly, with the stigma taken off pot smoking, we will see an increase in all drug use…stepping stones and all. With that, we all have higher costs for more rehab…because very few who are addicts have the money to pay for it…so the taxpayer gets nailed once again. More “hurting” one’s neighbor.

    • Patti April 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

      But Howard,… The Founders GAVE us FREEDOM,CONTINGENT upon us STAYING Moral & Religious.John Adams WARNED US…,”THIS CONSTITUTION WILL ONLY WORK FOR A MORAL & RELIGIOUS PEOPLE.IT IS WHOLLY “INADEQUATE” FOR ANY OTHER”.You ask,”Who’s “morality & religion”? Like it or not,they used the bible/Torah as their measuring rod.

  6. Dick Calvert April 28, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

    Marshall, as you know we both had sons that were
    negatively impacted by the use of marijuana! Bowen
    and Rick were about the same age . Rick passed
    because of his drug use. Death is and will continue to
    Be caused to so many of our young people that
    Continue using marijuana and other drugs! Those that
    refuse to believe that marijuana can and will lead
    To death and destruction have their heads in tha

  7. Toni Cleveland April 28, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    Powerful story and article.

  8. Edward A. Hensley April 28, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    WA & CO show deadly results on the highway already. Give CA
    3 to 5 years of legal pot & a Federal crackdown is likely, to stop
    the carnage. AG Sessions may move sooner but has bigger fish
    to fry right now! HAPPY BIRTHDAY Marshall!

  9. H. Long April 28, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

    Marshall — Your editorial in today’s Florida Today was outstanding! I sincerely hope that a lot of youngsters read it and understand your really good advice. At least we can hope! Thanx for all that you do.

  10. Charles Pierce April 28, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    Well said, and for the most part I agree with you. The problem is that we are creating the same situation as we had in Prohibition. The only people who profit from Marijuana use and sales is the Criminal element. How you fix the problem is beyond my ability to reason.

  11. Jan Siren April 28, 2017 at 5:06 pm #


    of all those who have responded I think Charles Pierce has closest to the most realistic view. If the solution to the problems of Prohibition was repeal, why do we persist in categorizing marijauna and alcohol differently? The main problem with marijauna use, as I see it, is driving (or operating heavy machinery, etc.) while intoxicated. Make driving stoned specifically illegal, as with alcohol, and come up with a reliable roadside chemical test for marijuana in the bloodstream, apply sanctions as appropriate, and do away with all the other foofaraw.

    The two drugs have their differences, of course, but the main difference hasn’t even been mentioned in any of the responses so far. Everyone knows the meaning of the word “alcoholic;” but the word “marijuanic” is an oxymoron. There is no such thing! Physical addiction (as with alcohol) doesn’t apply. The important thing is to keep marijauna users apart from purveyors of “the harder stuff.” Legalization, along with active enforcement, may accomplish that.


  12. Pete April 28, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

    The direct and indirect brokenness can never be fully calculated. It is a scourge into and of itself. We have all been exposed to the pros and cons throughout our career and lifetime. As indicated herein, some up close and personal—and beyond comprehension for those who haven’t come close to the same experience. Any abstract debate is trumped by those most in a position to know. Thanks for sharing the pain Dick and Marshal. Want to think it could meaningful for those less experienced “debaters”. Given a few of the comments here: not so sure.

  13. Bob McGavock April 28, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

    Well put Marshall. My condolences to you and Dick C.
    Everyone should realize that no family is immune from this type of tragedy.
    As long as legislators are liberal minded with regards to social issues, they will be like the proverbial permissive parent(s) who compare those issues to their own irresponsible attitudes, and give in to the whining of their pothead constituents. Score another win for “rights” V “responsibility”. Shame on you Washington and Colorado.

  14. Ron Fischer April 28, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

    In this day of social media and mass communications why not publicly register people who commit crimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Keep them posted for at least 1 year and post the details behind the damages to property and persons along with those details. Don’t forget to post the damages too.

    I have no sympathy for people that rely on drugs and alcohol to navigate through their lives. Expose them to their community and warn folks about their presence.

  15. Clearstory April 29, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    So Florida is ready to let grocery stores sell hard liquor, but us senior citizens still won’t
    be able to buy a marijuana brownie? Marijuana was illegal when Louis Armstrong was put in jail for smoking it, in the 1970’s! So how’re we doing so far? How’re CO and Washington doing? How many drunk driving deaths in FL? Louis Armstrong said alcohol was a drug that made people belligerent, and often vicious, and just how many people have died from using marijuana, in comparison?

  16. Tom April 30, 2017 at 6:05 pm #

    Unfortunately, we have too many of the people that handle the votes on this that endulge in the product themselves….Could this be why they vote for some strange things from time to time???

  17. Clearstory May 1, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    Yes, Tom. Marijuana has been used for centuries, all over the world. Dr. Sanjay Gupta said he could not find one proven case that ANYONE had ever died from it. “Weeds” ended with the irony of some big drug company producing “synthetic marijuana” by distilling the real plant. Synthetic marijuana costs a bundle, and insurance companies pay for its use, and all of us end up with higher insurance costs. Sure, let’s continue spending even more tax $$ to hunt down, prosecute, and jail, even people who grow marijuana on their back porch for their own use. Land of the Free, right? Drunk drivers kill and maim people and rarely go to jail. Smoking too, kills. What is really strange is Marijuana is the demon you fear, and not some drunk behind the wheel.

  18. Snake Hunter{s} May 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

    Pot-Smokers & Booze-Guzzling Drivers Both Kill Innocent Folks When They Drive.

    Defending these criminals is idiotic; Innocent families are the sad victims of ignor-ance.

    ___ ___

  19. Helen Bennett May 15, 2017 at 10:59 am #

    I agree with you, Marshall, and regret your sad story. Marijuana should be sold by prescription only.