I know the Michael Phelps bong-smoking photo is old news by now, but it’s been an interesting story to watch play-out and it’s even more interesting the turns it’s taken.  I myself watch a fair amount of sports-news TV and in the uber-jock world that most of these folks reside in it has been slightly refreshing to see that many of these folks are, well, fairly mellow in their attitudes towards pot.  A lot of commentators have made the point that is fair enough and one I don’t disagree with at all that, if this guy can smoke pot and break record after record and compete- perform his job- at such a high level then there’s really no controversy here.  Except for one- Kellogg’s- none of Phelps’ sponsors disagree and have stuck with him.  Their marketing research probably tells them what most of us know: pot isn’t usually much of a big deal, except I guess to those who enforce the laws against it.  As for Kellogg’s, they’re puritanism has come back full-circle: the well-established and surprisingly well-organized pro-pot advocacy groups (of all sorts, from medical marijuana advocates to all out de-criminalization groups) have launched their own boycott campaign against Kellogg’s.  One great point I read in an article (which I can’t seem to find now to link to) was that none of these sponsors cared, when they signed deals with him, that he has a DUI on his record, despite the fact that drunk drivers, and alcohol in general, are responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths in this country every year, but no death, ever, has been attributed to marijuana use.  Check and fucking mate.

As for the whole “he’s a role model” angle (along with “the simple fact that it’s illegal”, these are pretty much 99% of the pants pooper’s arguments)- here’s the thing, I’m sympathetic to the idea of being “good role models” not only if we’re in the public eye or if we’re someone’s parent, but to our friends and neighbors and all that stuff too.  But what is it we have to model?  Shielding our kids or averting our eyes or worse, prohibiting without rational cause (Just cause) isn’t the behavior or the mentality that needs to be modeled.  I’d gladly put my kid into the world with critical thinking skills and creative problem solving habits and self-confidence and let them make their own decisions, including about whether or not to smoke pot.

And to his credit, Phelps has handled the entire thing perfectly.  He publicly and profusely apologized, recognizing- as he should- that he is in the public eye and needs to behave maturely; I know plenty of people who I wish would make similar conclusions of their own.  He also graciously recognized that the authoritative body of his profession was going to penalize him and he took complete ownership of it all.  But it’s unfortunate and  even ridiculous that he needs to because of this particular issue.  Honestly, I have a hard time understanding how someone can accomplish so much but be penalized (either legally or socially) for engaging in behavior that harms no one, except perhaps himself, and that weakens far more than strengthens his performance on the job.

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