Friday, February 6, 2009

Good Morning, Mr. Phelps!!!

Not really. Not for our national hero, Michael Phelps. USA Swimming suspended him for three months, and Kellogg cancelled his endorsement contract after a photo of him using a marijuana pipe made internet rounds.

I don't use marijuana. But under the category of "youthful indiscretions," I list the single occasion when I tried it. And unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale. As hard as I possibly could. But despite my best efforts, it had absolutely no effect. I didn't yell, "I'm a golden god" and jump from a rooftop. Nobody was funnier. Nobody crept up on me. I didn't even notice a propensity to say, "duuuuude."

People will say, "Oh, you didn't do it right," or "it wasn't good stuff." Really? Well, let's just say that I got it backstage at a concert from a guy who we'll call "Snizoop Dizzogg" to protect his real identity. And when the regular method failed, Mr. Dizzogg and his associates burned a batch in a crock pot that I put my head in and covered with a towel like I was treating a cold. Still nothing. Apparently, for straight-laced guys like me, marijuana is so subtle, you can't even tell you're using it.

But I know this. I've never heard of anybody dying from smoking marijuana -- not from operating while intoxicated, not from getting angry in a bar fight, and not from lung cancer. I'm not saying it's NEVER happened; I'm just saying I've never read about it. But I have heard of millions of tobacco deaths and hundreds of thousands of alcohol-related deaths.

But marijuana is the drug for which we spend hundreds of millions annually in law enforcement and Department of Correction costs?!? Dogmatic law enforcement types will tell you marijuana is a gateway drug. For some people, it is. But nowhere near as much as cigarettes and alcohol are.

Isn't it time to admit yet that, from a public health perspective, we've backed the wrong horses, and marijuana isn't serious?

Look at the statement issued by USA Swimming on Phelps:

"This is not a situation where any ANTI-DOPING rule was violated...."

You're telling me they aren't laughing at their own double-entendre?

USA Swimming goes on to say that Phelps has to "earn back our trust." How did Michael Phelps betray us? By showing that you can still destroy your competition while periodically being half-baked? By pulling back the curtain on this ludicrous American marijuana morality play?

All we can say is that Phelps broke the law by using a non-sanctioned drug. But, the older I get, the more the arbitrariness and hypocrisy of what we have chosen to criminalize (or NOT to criminalize) in this country disgusts me. It's not based on public health concerns; it's based solely on how much money is made by the politically-influential businesses that control those drugs. This is why underaged drinking will never be criminalized as heavily as marijuana possession at any age, even though the former results in people dying at colleges across America. (You see, beer sponsors are the cash cow that drives almost ALL of our hero-worship enterprises, a/k/a "the professional sports industrial complex").

Kellogg said it dropped Phelps because his behavior is "not consistent with the image of Kellogg." Are they serious? The only image anybody has of Kellogg is a tiger in a kerchief shilling for his frosted flakes by telling us how greeeeeeaaaaattt they are.

For his part, Phelps has acknowledged "bad judgment." But one can't help but wonder whether most people see the "bad judgment" as using marijuana...or using it publicly. I doubt most people would say, "Mr. Phelps, please stop. This is bad for YOU," had this been something only THEY knew. No, most would say, "Do what you want, Mr. Phelps, but don't EVER make us rethink what we've already made up our mind about, or force us to explain our great American hypocrisies to our kids." It's too disconcerting for most Americans to have their assumptions challenged.

Stay tuned for part two on American hypocrisy later in the week....



Pete Miesel said...

VERY astute point about the relative dangers of pot v. alcohol. If that poor Wabash Delt had merely hit the bong instead of the beer bong, then there wouldn't be grieving parents, a shut down frat house, and a college facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

I personally don't smoke pot, or anything else. However, to treat it like it was akin to heroin or crack is just asinine.

If people are worried about stoned drivers weaving on Broad Ripple Avenue while grooving to their Allman Brothers CDs, then maybe the cops should just develop a system to pull over and arrest people for driving while high.

Good column.

J. Hagedorn said...

I've become so jaded about issues relating to the War on Drugs in America, that when someone speaks the truth as you have in this entry, all I can say is "You're absolutely right!" and then move on. I'm convinced that no amount of logic or rational thought will ever bring about any type of change.

You've hit on the second biggest reason that pot remains illegal (i.e alcohol industry), but the #1 reason is law enforcement. Without the sham that is the War on Drugs, common folks would realize that we have virtually no real crime in America - notwithstanding the financial crimes that have been perpetrated upon us by Corporate America- and police budgets would shrink dramatically. If there's no Boogeyman out there, why would Officer Friendly need that $3000.00 assault rifle? Better yet, why would Officer Friendly need a dozen more Officer Friendlies to back him up every time he pulls somebody over between 21st Street and 40th Street?

If the cops were relegated to "Serving and Protecting" we'd have about half as many cops, one third as many upper level commanders, and most all of them would carry whistles instead of weapons.

And don't even get me started on the money we'd save by building hospitals to treat addicts instead of prisons to house them.

Mike Kole said...

One of the great opportunities for the Obama Administration is to end the folly that is the War on Drugs. I'd really love to at last see a Democratic president with a Democratic Congress do this.

Too bad Clinton didn't do so when he had the same opportunities in the first two years of his Administration. Let history not repeat itself!

Dave Stone said...

This whole episode of national finger-waving by people who are shocked, shocked that twenty-something might smoke pot at parties, is really funny.

Funnier is that the Kellogg company would be deeply offended. I guess they've forgotten that their founding brothers were total nut-logs.

Have you seen "The Road to Wellville"? Congratulations--you're the other person. Anyway, it's about the Kelloggs. Think enemas, lots of enemas.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many 23 year old college graduates have NOT used marijuana....that would be the real news.......

Kate said...

You got high with Snoop Dogg????