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Ethan Nadelmann

Ethan Nadelmann

Posted February 6, 2009 | 01:34 PM (EST)

If Kellogg's Dumps Phelps, We Dump Kellogg's


Michael Phelps' public apology for getting photographed smoking marijuana wasn't enough for the food company, Kellogg's, which announced yesterday that it would not renew its contract with the swimming champion when it expires at the end of the month.

I for one am sick and tired of the public spectacle that transpires every time any public figure gets photographed, arrested or otherwise outed and punished for smoking marijuana. It's not just that Michael Phelps did what millions of other twenty-somethings do; it's that he did what over one hundred million Americans have done at least once in their lives, including the president, former presidents, members of the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court, and a significant proportion of the country's most distinguished businessmen, scholars, artists, entertainers and leaders.

This contemporary flogging reeks of hypocrisy -- of alcohol drinkers and tobacco smokers condemning those who consume a far less dangerous product; of company officials who no doubt smoked marijuana themselves castigating a remarkable athlete for getting caught doing what nobody cares if they did as well; and of sanctimonious handwringers seizing on a public figure's embarrassment to drive home an anachronistic abstinence-only message when it comes to America's favorite illicit psychoactive substance.

Tens of millions of Americans think that the public condemnation of Phelps is a farce. My guess is that a substantial number of them may choose to boycott Kellogg's products in response to its repudiation of Michael Phelps. Will it hurt Kellogg's bottom line if hundreds of thousands of Americans no longer grab a Kellogg's product when they get the munchies? And will it hurt even more if millions of Americans who no longer smoke marijuana, or never did, choose not to buy Kellogg's products because this decision smacks of intolerance and reflects poorly on the Kellogg's brand?

I think it's time to see. My organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, is working -- starting now -- to send Kellogg's this message, and we're joining with others as well. More than seventy percent of Americans say that marijuana should be decriminalized and that no one should go to jail. We agree. In fact, the residents of Kellogg's home state of Michigan recently passed, by an overwhelming margin, a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. We also think that arresting almost 800,000 Americans each year for possessing a little marijuana is both a stupid waste and diversion of police resources as well as a cruel intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans. And we're sick and tired of the public outings, and forced apologies and recantations, which perpetuate this shameless hypocrisy.

So let's send Kellogg's a message! Criminal laws and corporate drug testing successfully deter millions of Americans from openly identifying as responsible citizens who happen to smoke marijuana. But a "Call Kellogg's Campaign" that lets the corporation know that their dumping Phelps is good reason for us to dump Kellogg might just make the point that more and more Americans are sick and tired of this particular spectacle.

Just say No to Kellogg's. Call them at 800-962-1413 and 269-961-3799 to tell them what you think.

Ethan Nadelmann is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)