And all this was simply over a photo. I thought it was only illegal to possess marijuana, but Phelps is being persecuted for a picture of him smoking sometime in the past. The reactionary governing body of some obtuse organization called U.S. Swimming has suspended Phelps for three months, cancelling several meet appearances and cutting off all financial support, "effective immediately." The board's statement could have come right out of 1968:
"This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated, but we decided to send a strong message to Michael (Burt Bachrach take note) because he disappointed so many people, particularly the...kids who look up to him as a role model and a hero."
Spoken like a true member of the 50% of American society that still denies trying pot. Are those hard-won gold medals less worthy because of a bong hit? Fools! Your children already know more about it than you do. I understand that still developing brains have no business trying any mind-altering substance whatever. That's why we don't sell whiskey to children. But it's easier for your children to get pot than alcohol, especially with the profit motive and the outlaw mystique that comes along with the procurement and use of the illegal herb. And the smoking of anything is not healthy for the body, but a lung full of pot is far less harmful than a gut full of whiskey. Had Mr. Phelps been photographed at the same party with a large tumbler of scotch, no one would have raised an eyebrow, and that's just asinine.
Eric Schlosser has written the book, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, where marijuana is claimed to be the largest cash crop in the country. At the same time, Schlosser claimed in 2003, that "there are more people in prison today for violating marijuana laws than at any other time in American history." First outlawed by the states in the 30s to threaten illegal migrant workers not yet sufficiently exploited by their employers, with arrest as well, a government sponsored misinformation campaign of marijuana hysteria continued unabated until the Beatniks and Hippies exposed it as lies and propaganda. According to Schlosser, "The war on drugs launched by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 began largely as a campaign against marijuana, organized by conservative parents' groups." When Reagan secretly supplied the Contras in Nicaragua with weapons, we now know those supposedly empty CIA planes came back to this country filled with cocaine which, depending on who you ask, created the nationwide crack epidemic. Yet, the know-less-than-nothing Reagan began his War on Drugs on a weed that grows wild in almost every continent. He may as well have declared war on Kudzu.
The cultivation of marijuana is now an American industry. In the mid-60s, they once estimated that three million people had smoked marijuana, now it is estimated that three million people grow it. Entire counties in Northern California have been given over to pot farming and the legalization of medical marijuana has not just brought relief to sufferers of a variety of maladies, from Glaucoma to symptoms of AIDS, it has made pot as easy to obtain as a pizza. Still, the federal laws clash with the state laws and the DEA goes in periodically like the bull in the china shop to bust everything up on principle. And marijuana laws in other states, particularly in the South, are as draconian as ever, despite the ever-rising number of pot-related arrests. With the out-of-proportion public flogging of Michael Phelps, perhaps the indignation will be sufficient enough for the public to be amenable to the reform of marijuana laws. Ohio State University scientists have recently shown marijuana has the capacity to reduce memory impairment in the aging brain and those few who still claim that pot is a "gateway" to more dangerous substances have yet to discover that the gateway leads to a bag of Fritos and a Snickers Bar. Wouldn't it be something if there were a movement underway to re-educate the public, decriminalize, regulate, and tax marijuana? Well, there is.
Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul have introduced bi-partisan bills: H.R.5842, which allows the states to decide to decriminalize or allow medical marijuana without interference from Federal authority, and H.R.5843, officially called "The Act to Reform Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults." The intrepid people from NORML helped to write the bill, which would end the criminal prosecution of Americans in possession of 100 grams, or nearly four ounces, which would be considered as personal use. Presently, the government classifies pot as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, just like heroin and PCP. The Marijuana Policy Project states marijuana arrests "outnumber arrests for all violent crimes combined," yet I never knew anyone who ever held up a liquor store because he was out of pot. Barney Frank said, "The vast amount of human activity should be none of the government's business." The Congressman added, "I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time." With all the problems on the new President's shoulders, it would seem that an innocuous weed would be a low priority. But if President Obama is looking for new and profitable businesses, he need look no farther than California, where an already burgeoning marijuana trade, if properly regulated, just might take a huge bite out of the national debt. This is one project that is literally "shovel ready."