Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 2009
Source: Savannah Morning News (GA)
Copyright: 2009 Savannah Morning News
Author: Matthew Garbet


Like many Americans, I was disappointed with Michael Phelps's actions
over the course of the past weeks. As everyone by now knows, Phelps
was photographed smoking marijuana from a bong. After the publication
of the picture, Phelps apologized for his behavior, calling it a
mistake; USA Swimming suspended Phelps for 3 months, a punishment he
deemed fair and he apologized again.

Disappointing, no? I guess smoking pot does make you stupid, because
rather than apologizing and accepting his punishment meekly, he should
have stood up, raised his voice, and said, "Yes, I smoked pot. So
what? I am proof that marijuana is not bad for you. Guess what? That
is not the first time I've taken a hit from the bong and I'm still the
greatest Olympian of all time. Maybe we should rethink our national
obsession with the immorality of marijuana."

Studies have shown no long term negative heath effects, including
brain damage and cancer. Most of Americans already know this, since
polls show over 40% of us have smoked weed. Unless we are going to
blame the current financial crisis on a stoned nation, it appears
we're getting along fine with the occasional joint.

Speaking of the financial crisis, according to a 2006 study, and
estimated $600million dollars a year is spent at the national and
state level incarcerating people for marijuana possession. Add in the
$100 million or so here for law enforcement time spent and $100
million there for border work, the military efforts in foreign
countries... pretty soon we're talking about real money. For something
that's pretty harmless.

I say pretty harmless. Studies have shown a link between heavy
marijuana use among teenagers and brain development. Of course pot
should not be available to anyone below the drinking age. Put the pot
in the drug stores and liquor stores where it belongs.

Certainly driving under the influence of marijuana should remain a
crime. Marijuana's legalization shouldn't and wouldn't have any impact
on that.

Which brings us full circle back to Michael Phelps. I don't recall his
losing endorsement deals over his DUI. I don't recall any suspension
of his swimming, or a general national hand wringing over an action
that put himself and others at far greater risk than a puff from a
bong at a party.

Michael Phelps put a face on what hard work and dedication could do in
athletics. In light of a misplaced national obsession and financial
expenditure fighting a war on a harmless drug, his acceptance of yet
more unnecessary discipline was the biggest disappointment.

Matthew Garbet

Tybee Island
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