Thursday, February 05, 2009

Michael Phelps and Marijuana

I am once again completely stymied by the reaction to swimming superstar Michael Phelps' being caught (via photograph) smoking marijuana at a student party. So far Kellogg Cereal has dropped him from their sponsorship roles (which means you won't be seeing his face on boxes of Kellogg cereal anymore) and USA swimming has banned him from competition for three months and stopped paying him his $1700/month stipend.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, clearly this was an incredibly stupid thing for Phelps to do. It seems fairly obvious he either thought he wouldn't get caught, or he failed to foresee the consequences.

But what I don't get is ... *why* marijuana is illegal and *so* socially unacceptable, while nicotine and alcohol, both also psychoactive drugs aren't. Both of the former have *far* greater health risks associated with them than the latter (How many people died of marijuana use last year?). What if Phelps has been caught smoking a nicotine cigarette? Or having a beer? Would anyone have freaked out at this level? I seriously doubt it.

I just don't get the thing about marijuana. Don't get it don't get it don't get it. It's just *so* completely constructed out of absolutely nothing, and I can't understand *why*.


Bob Hardwick said...

dude, maryjane is shit what are you thinking defending the stoopid doink?

Benjamin Ady said...


I'm wondering if you can elaborate on "MaryJane is shit". Did you or someone you know have a really bad experience with it?

I didn't mean to defend Mr. Phelps per se. I was just using his particular case to ask questions about a larger social issue.

To me, for instance, me losing my temper and yelling at my kids, which happens occasionally, is probably a lot more dangerous for both my kids and society at large than is someone smoking some marijuana. But nobody freaks out at that level about someone yelling at their kids. Why the enormous reaction to marijuana per se? I don't understand it.

jadeejf said...

To me, it doesn't really matter that marijuana is about the same as cigarettes or alcohol in terms of bodily consequences. What matters is that marijuana is illegal, while the other two are not. That may not be right, and it may be a silly law, but it's still the law.

Phelps is (now) a star whom many look up to as a role model- and he's a good one! But in doing this, it makes it seem like he thinks he is above the law (much like many other celebrities and politicians).

I feel about this the same way I felt about Bill Clinton lying. Both were good role models, and I could care less what the lie was about or what the product was specifically, but am disappointed that such otherwise decent role models would break the law and expect little to no consequences from it. And let's face it, Phelps losing a $1700 stipend is probably not even a slap on the wrist for him (though I don't know what his financial situation is).

All in all, it's more just disappointing- not because he was smoking pot, but because he was showing a lack of respect for the laws of his country.

Kat said...

Marijuana being illegal is just beyond comprehension. Its a natural substance and causes so much less damage and heartache then alchohol. It needs to get legalized for sure. Its so insane that Michael Phelps is being so harrassed by people for something so ridiculous. I mean come on people. You are talking about one of the greatest Athletes ever in the world. Where can he go from here? He has the most olympic golds that anyone has ever had in history. Who really cares if a young man who has allready exceeded every other human being where the Olympics and swimming are concerned decides to take a little time and relaxation and some natural entertainment. If Michel Phelps was an Indian and using it for a spiritual ritual would everyone be so up at arms? Give the guy a break and let him have some fun.

Benjamin Ady said...

Jade (But it's Beth, isn't it?),

(Beth in Fremont?)

(sorry if I'm way off on that)

There *is* something to be said for obeying laws just because they are laws. It's a kind of ... courtesy, isn't it--a saying "Well, I respect that we all have to get along, so we've agreed on some rules, and I'm willing to abide by those rules for the sake of getting along"

And yet ... this can go too far too, no? I mean what if we decided to make taking caffeine illegal? Would you stop drinking it? How far are you willing to go with that?

Plus, I wasn't really saying it's a good idea to break the law and smoke marijuana. Obviously it's stupid at certain levels--the payoffs are too often outweighed by the drawbacks. I was just using Phelps to ask the broader question of *why* is it illegal? And beyond that *why* is there such a backlash about this particular illegal activity? No one freaks out if a role model gets a speeding ticket for 10 over, although chances are that going 10 over causes a lot more mayhem than smoking marijuana.

Benjamin Ady said...


You rock. And everything you said makes total sense to me =)

Moonaroo said...

I need to preface this by stating that I am adamantly for the legalization of marijuana. Perhaps I can expound more fully on my opinion at a later time, but I do think that the whole legal system benefits financially from a pot bust more than busting say a meth lab and that is one reason that it remains illegal.

With that said, most kids Michael's age will try pot. Sorry for him, as a role model to the younger generation, he is held to a higher standard. Until the laws as we know change, pot is illegal and Michael took a chance with his celebrity when he chose to smoke it.

I am saddened by how much this will cost him. I view it as a frivolous error of youth, one that he will undoubtedly regret for the rest of his life.

Megs said...

I think it's horrendous that first world drugs are legal, making first world pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol companies wealthy, whilst developing world drugs are illegal, making developing world drug dealers criminals.

They're all similar, these legal and illegal drugs, and they're all dangerous, if not carefully regulated, which is only possible if they're legal.

(But not for my kids...)

Happy Valentines Day darling!
Where does the possessive apostrophe go there?

Seren said...

Though all the big cigarette production companies are sitting on patents for joints should the laws change at any time.

JadeEJF said...

You're right- it is Beth in Fremont. I need to check back on my comments more often- I'm far behind. As for the answers to the second set of questions, I think the reason it's illegal has to do with tradition more than anything else. It seems silly to me, too, but how does one go about changing the law, other than simply writing and hoping and taking what small actions we can :)