Bong vs. Bottle

Science, technology, and life.
Feb. 12 2009 9:25 AM

Bong vs. Bottle

Is pot worse than booze?

This AP story about the Michael Phelps brouhaha caught my eye yesterday. The Marijuana Policy Project is organizing a boycott of Kellogg's for dumping Phelps over his pot use. I'm tempted to join it.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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Last summer, just after Phelps won eight gold medals in Beijing, Kellogg's announced , "HE'S GR-R-R-EIGHT! U.S. OLYMPIAN MICHAEL PHELPS TO BE FEATURED ON PACKAGES OF KELLOGG'S FROSTED FLAKES AND KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES CEREAL." The company's vice president for global promotions gushed, "Michael embodies the values behind our Frosted Flakes Earn Your Stripes program. He knows that winning is not just about the glory that comes with gold medals, but about good sportsmanship, working hard and being your best."

Then, two weeks ago, Phelps got caught smoking marijuana at a party. Kellogg's promptly dumped him. "Michael's most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg," the company declared .

Not consistent? The real inconsistency, MPP's Bruce Mirken argued in an AlterNet commentary , was in the company's treatment of marijuana and alcohol. "In 2004, Phelps pleaded guilty to drunken driving ," Mirken pointed out. "But apparently that offense—just as illegal, and which actually could have resulted in someone being hurt or killed—was not an issue for Kellogg's." Mirken continued:

[M]arijuana is far safer than alcohol. Alcohol is more addictive. According to the Institute of Medicine, 15 percent of those who ever drink become dependent on alcohol. The figure for marijuana is just 9 percent. ... Alcohol is massively more toxic. Every year, people die from alcohol overdoses. ... And the chronic effects of heavy alcohol use—e.g. liver damage—kill thousands upon thousands more. There has never been a medically documented marijuana overdose. ... And unlike marijuana, alcohol tends to make users reckless, aggressive and violent. A review in the journal Addictive Behaviors explained, "Alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship."

The man has a point, doesn't he? Isn't tobacco worse than pot ? And isn't alcohol in some ways as bad as tobacco ?

Here's the sign-up page for the Kellogg's boycott. Personally, I plan to salute the company's morals by sitting down with a bowl of Special K, floating in Jim Beam.

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