Frank Shaw is a long-term HIV/AIDS survivor, founder of the Frank’s Friends Initiative, and medical marijuana patient living in Ipswich. Frank was appointed in March 2021 to serve as the Registered Qualifying Patient Advisor on the Massachusetts Cannabis Advisory Board.
Frank joined the Freemasons in 1979 after graduating from Western New England University with his Bachelors in Science & Business Administration. Frank was a property owner and continues to be an established presence in his community. He worked as a software engineer for decades at companies including Digital Equipment Corporation and Wang Laboratories. Frank was doing independent software consulting when he fell ill and was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1998.
Early AIDS medications were sometimes experimental and toxic. One prescription left Frank with permanent neuropathic damage in his feet which continues to manifest itself in painful burning episodes. Frank first tried marijuana in 1971 as a teenager, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Frank got his medical card after finding himself using marijuana to ease the continuing pain in his feet.
In 2013, Frank co-founded the Cannabis Society of Massachusetts Inc., a membership based non-profit hosting informational events, networking nights, and private parties for members and guests that brought the Massachusetts cannabis community together during the infancy of the industry. In October 2019, Frank challenged Governor Baker’s statewide vape ban in a lawsuit resulting in medical marijuana vapes returning to dispensary shelves earlier than had been anticipated. In January 2020, Frank became a board advisor to the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance Inc., helping the organization develop programs and providing input to the executive team.
Frank has been advocating on cannabis policy directly at the federal, state, and local level since 2015 and providing public comment at regulatory adjustments and legislative hearings since 2017. In 2020, Frank launched the Frank’s Friends Initiative, which offers a 50% discount at participating medical marijuana dispensaries and healthcare providers to low-income HIV/AIDS patients who struggle to afford the costs associated with this medication. In 2021, Frank recognized the need for educational materials about the medical marijuana program in languages other than English and created “IMPACT”, which stands for “Improving Multicultural Patient Access Connection Tool”, as a platform to offer those resources.
The medical marijuana movement began in San Francisco during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis when patients discovered that cannabis was the only thing that helped relieve their symptoms and suffering. Frank mourns the lives lost to HIV/AIDS and wakes up each day grateful to be alive to help those who live with debilitating medical conditions, never forgetting the legacy of those who have lived and died advocating.
Frank in his capacity as Registered Qualifying Patient Advisor is available to meet virtually to learn about your experience and listen to your feedback as it pertains to the Massachusetts medical marijuana program. You can schedule a time to “Meet Frank” at https://qpatient.org/.
My name is Thomas Steele and I am a veteran and a cannabis patient. I served our nation in two wars, Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. As a result of my service in Iraq, I was diagnosed in 2010 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was later determined by the Veterans Administration to have a 100% service connected disability. My story is not unique. There are many citizens of the Commonwealth who struggle with conditions for which cannabis has provided relief.