Published February 2, 2009
When a photo leaked last week of Michael Phelps smoking marijuana from a pipe, the most decorated Olympian in history was compelled to apologize. But why do we care that he was smoking pot? The war on drugs is one of the most misguided efforts we have pursued as a country, and it's time for a fresh look at what the consequences of drug possession and use should be.
That gold-medalist Phelps indulged should raise the profile of smokers rather than lower his own. After all, he's not the first gold medalist to be seen toking. Canadian Ross Rebagliati was likewise caught in the act and stripped of his gold medal--which was shortly restored, but as Robin Williams points out...
Marijuana enhances many things: colors, flavors, sensations, but you are certainly not ... empowered. When you're stoned, you're lucky if you can find your own ... feet. The only way it's a performance-enhancing drug is if there's a big ... Hershey bar at the end of the run.
I'm not advocating smoking pot, but I'm also not advocating getting drunk. There are many kinds of drugs, and the ones that are legal are the ones that those in charge approve of and can effectively tax and control. It depends on the stigma attached to those who partake of the drug.
If you gamble in Utah one day and Nevada the next, is the act any different between the two states? It's only different because Nevada has figured out a way to regulate it and Utah won't. Are you criminals if you have a game of poker in your attic with a group of friends? What about that Super Bowl office pool you contributed $10 to?
The Federal Government alone spends somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion per month on the war on drugs, and states collectively exceed that. What do we get in return? Prisons full of young, minority men that we convert into hardened criminals. It's argued that weed is a gateway drug. If so, it's a gateway to state- and federally funded education to become a trained criminal.
Like so many things that we as a culture feel compelled to stick our collective, celebrity-obsessed noses into, Michael Phelps's decision to smoke is none of our business. His image should remain as sterling as his many medals, and we should pursue drug equality.
Whether you prefer drinking or doping, you should do it in moderation and without fear of prosecution. We've got far more important things to worry about, like the economic crisis. In fact, while we're looking for solutions, creating a new industry to regulate legalized pot could be quite the cash cow.