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Who cares that Phelps smoked pot?

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

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.


1lucy(123 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I'll withhold my opinion on partaking of the pipe; however, I will congratulate you on smartening up the topic. Well done.

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2commoncents(53 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I second Lucy's praise. Once again it's good to see you draw a focus on what's really important and relevant. Keep it up. Make us think more! Ignorance and intolerance cause more problems than a little weed.

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3projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm with you on "Who cares?" I've always been amazed when people are anti-pot smoking but pro-inebriation. I was raised in a climate where smoking a joint was thought to lead to heroin and LSD usage whereas having a "highball" was perfectly okay (along with a little drunk driving). Binge drinking is far more dangerous in today's society and on campus. A bigger deal is made out of Phelps smoking pot than the multiple times celebrities go into rehab for alcohol abuse. Like you say, how about beginning a discussion on moderate usage & chill out about our obsession over celebrities in the first place. ;)

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4Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Read "The Natural Mind" by Andrew Weil. It puts things in perspective similar to Tyler's entry.

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5valleyred(1102 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I care. He is a national symbol of America. He is an role model for the youth of our nation. Hell I saw some kids dress up as Michael Phelps for Halloween.

Way to really mess up Michael Phelps. You may be an Olympic Champion, but smoking pot is an immature childish act that goes to show that you aren't such a great role model for our kids as many would have thought.


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6Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Drug abuse and alcohol abuse are public health issues for which the government's response has been feeble. The government has a responsibility to protect it's citizens...even from their own weaknesses and addictions. Alcohol, tobacco and high-saturated fat foods should be taxed heavily. Controlling our borders would assist in controlling narcotic trafficking. Penalties for posession and distributing should be strictly enforced. PSAs should continue to educate the public re: the destructive effects of alcohol and drugs on lives and families.

As far as Micheal Phelps goes, success is the twin brother of responsibility. Very disappointing.

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7intelligentTHOUGHT(1 comment)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

that's because beer is legal and pot isn't, thus the death and destruction you are oh so intimate with, clark. get with it. legalize/regulate/tax and the smugglers/kidnappings/all evil in the world will go away, except that there will be more money for the government to siphon off to the gazillionaires that really run this country. please.

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8VINDYAK(1812 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Didn't our past two Presidents and our new one admit to smoking pot? I guess smoking pot and not paying your taxes is OK if you are a highly paid government employee.

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9tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

@clarkkent, the reason pot is being smuggled in is because it's illegal. Change the law, change the culture. And thanks for the baseless, unfounded insults, I love that.

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10VINDYAK(1812 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Marijuana is not nearly as potent a drug as PCP, Heroin, or LSD and is a common recreational drug, despite the law. I agree making it legal and taxing it is enticing for generating revenue, but now you would have a new legalized intoxicant to deal with on our roads, in our workplace and at all public places. The costs of poor quality of work, property damage, loss of lives and policing could be more than the revenue it would generate.

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11Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Will Rogers asked, 'We don't seem to be able to check crime, so why not legalize it and then tax it out of business?'

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12JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Um, Tyler...what was the question again, man?

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13valleyred(1102 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

It's absolutely ridiculous the Vindicator is allowing someone to come on here and encourage the use of illegal substances. What kind of world do we live in?!?

Pot is illegal! Don't encourage people to use it! Now I understand what is wrong with our country.

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14JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Take it easy, red. Catch some Ozzie & Harriet reruns, that should help calm you down.

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15Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Marijuana is addictive, increases the users risk of heart attacks, cancer, mental illness including schizophrenia, and lowers quality of life through causing irritability and impaired sleep, etc. These are bad things, and we should protect weak and vulnerable citizens from these serious consequences by making it difficult to get.

Legalizing it is absurd, but if you're a lib, it probably makes as much sense as socialism and non-tax paying cabinet appointees.


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16JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Dope does, however, heighten ones ability to tolerate ultra right-wing rhetoric, thus enabling rational people to read posts at vindy.com.

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17valleyred(1102 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

USA Swimming suspends Phelps for 3 months..

Least some are not advocating the use of dope in moderation.

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18JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Another point for the square community. Keep on smoking, Poindexter! They can suspend you for 3 lifetimes and you'd still have cash.

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19aeparish(669 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

So, Tyler. Tell us -- does Vindy drug test?

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20tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Based on the comments here, there were obviously no tests or prerequisites of any kind in preparation for me taking on this blog.

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21tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

the real question is whether use of illegal drugs warrants the harsh sentencing currently imposed. Do we wish to continue filling and funding prisons for people who are getting high, or are there perhaps alternatives?

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22aeparish(669 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Woody... I see what you're saying, but do you realize if we let even more people get addicted to drugs (and if they don't have access to their welfare check, etc.) that crime rates are just going to skyrocket? Addicts are known for being thiefs. So they might not get rewarded with your tax dollars, but they're going to make some quick cash off of that big screen tv in your living room.

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23projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

As another blogger on this site, I would not fault Tyler for needing a toke after reading some of the comments that come his way. Do you realize how wacky some of these posters are? It is enough to drive anyone to drink/toke/running a few miles - whatever your drug is, if one wasn't stable minded and had a thick skin. ;) I have to say that a few of you are good for a daily chuckle.

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24Mahcntyvoter(30 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

By reprimanding Phelps publicly instead of offering him help and a second chance I think we are sending a bad message. If it is so bad to admit to making a mistake like this then our children who do make this mistake and get into addiction troubles will only hide the problem for longer. In return will probably have legal or criminal problems before someone can help them. We need to start sending a message to our children that if they make such mistakes that they can be forgiven and there are people out there to help support them and lead them back to the right track. Phelps will be okay with his marajuana mistake but when we start destroying his life and his dreams for a mistake that most of us have encountered, then were will that lead him? People who put such harsh jugdements on simple mistakes usually help cause a road to bigger mistakes. We need to remember to help people at first, not judge them. Then if they continue the drug use, they have then earned the criticism and the punishments. We need a system were people can face there mistakes and have someone to turn to to correct the mistake. Not a system who punishes people after the drug use is to great and the withdrawel is so harsh it is almost unbearable. Or why do we even dare try to destroy someones career before they even have a chance to make it right on there own?

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25commoncents(53 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Wow Tyler! It looks like you woke up some sleepy minds. Good work. I agree with your attempt to remind everyone that the original issue was about degree and cost of punishment in a world with other priorities.

Despite the temptation many of us feel to engage the ignorant, remember: "It's not fair to get into a battle of wits with defenseless people."

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26henryviii1509(274 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

reefer, indulged in moderately, does, in fact help in coping with the un-informed. if you were to try it ,(more than once), you would know

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27George412(161 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Seriously, This Phelps flap is a collective national over-reaction. This is just another case of the media telling us what we should be outraged about.

"But Phelps is role model" you say. He's also a man in his twenties, and shouldn't we remember that another man who indulged in drugs and alcohol in his youth just served two terms as our president?

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28injusticeallover(4 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

This obviously was not a problem until it got publicized now all of the sudden he is a drug addict give the guy a break! Shame on the person who leaked that picture! The guy is obviously the best at what he does! What he does in his spare time is his own business! WE ALL need to mind our OWN business and maybe we could get ourselves out of this situation our country is in! If you ask me I think his privacy was invaded. Be Careful
who you trust with your privacy anymore.

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