Champion swimmer Michael Phelps was recently photographed holding a marijuana pipe and has now been suspended for three months by USA Swimming. At least one commercial sponsor has dropped him so far. Apparently Phelps with a record number of medals is a golden boy, to be cherished as a national treasure and marketed as a role model. But Phelps with a record number of medals and a pot habit is a model for how to fail in life. Clearly, both USA Swimming and the commercial sponsor are clueless about how commonplace and accepted marijuana is in American life. They are running scared, afraid of appearing to be condoning behavior that will lead our precious children to dead end jobs or perpetual unemployment, languishing in their parent’s basements.
To highlight the absurdity of the current reactions to Phelps’ pot use, I’ll explain a little bit about what it takes to be a champion swimmer. I was a competitive swimmer in the 80s and at that time, I competed at the regional and sometimes the state level. (This was in Plano, Texas, for those who care.) I swam with others who were national level swimmers and a few who were potential Olympic contenders. We trained hard 3 to 5 hours a day for 5 to 6 days a week to compete at the level we did. I’m pretty certain that Phelps trained at least as hard as I did. Drug use, including marijuana, was fairly common in swimming then as it apparently is now. Doesn’t the incredible level of discipline embodied by Phelps and the countless other swimmers who put in equal effort (but have less raw talent) demonstrate beyond a doubt that marijuana use is not an aberration, a weakness, or a slacker’s ticket to failure?
Phelps joins the illustrious Carl Sagan and Louis Armstrong (to name just a few prominent and public pot smokers) in demonstrating the absurdity of declaring marijuana a destructive substance, used only by slackers and losers. The battle against marijuana use is an important front in the incredibly harmful “war on drugs” and I will celebrate the day it is abandoned. Although I abhor smoking in general and have never tried marijuana, I am convinced the United States will be a better place to live when it becomes legal to buy and consume. I may even try a marijuana brownie, just to see how it feels!