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Feature: Drug Reformers Boycott Kellogg Cereals Over Dumping of Michael Phelps Over Bong Photo

Mixing equal parts genuine outrage and political calculation, major elements of the drug reform movement have begun a national boycott of cereal giant Kellogg over its treatment of Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. Phelps was famously caught holding a bong in a photograph that surfaced last week, leading Kellogg to refuse to renew his endorsement contract.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/michaelphelps.jpg
Michael Phelps
So far, Kellogg stands alone in dumping Phelps. Other corporations with which he had endorsement deals, such as Subway, have stood by him. He has been handed a three-month suspension by Colorado Springs-based USA Swimming , which is now under attack for its treatment of the Olympic champion by the Colorado activists of Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), led by Mason Tvert.

In a statement last week, the Michigan-based Kellogg said Phelps' behavior was "not consistent with the image of Kellogg." Oddly enough, Kellogg did not have a problem with Phelps' 2004 conviction for drunk driving. As recently as last fall, Kellogg's was touting its partnership with the hero of the Beijing Olympics.

"Michael's commitment to encouraging healthy lifestyles, especially among children, is in line with our many programs that educate consumers and promote good nutrition," said Brad Davidson, president of Kellogg North America. "He demonstrates that winning is not just about the glory that comes with gold medals, but that it's also about good sportsmanship, eating right, working hard and being your best."

Kellogg did not respond to Drug War Chronicle calls and emails this week requesting comment.

As the Phelps affair rocketed through the media -- it has been the subject of countless mass media reports, sports columns, and blog postings -- anger over Kellogg's treatment of the talented swimmer percolated through the drug reform community, as well as among marijuana aficionados everywhere.

"Kellogg's dismissal of Phelps is hypocritical and disgusting, and our members are angrier than I've ever seen them," said Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) executive director Rob Kampia. "Kellogg's had no problem signing up Phelps when he had a conviction for drunk driving, an illegal act that could actually have killed someone. To drop him for choosing to relax with a substance that's safer than beer is an outrage, and it sends a dangerous message to young people," he said.

"Kellogg is telling young people that drunk driving is okay, but using a social relaxant that's safer than beer gets you fired," Kampia continued. "That's not just outrageous, it's potentially lethal. We all know that boycotts are difficult to pull off, but the 100 million Americans who've made marijuana this nation's number one cash crop represent a lot of buying power -- buying power that Kellogg may wish it hadn't alienated."

MPP is by no means alone. In a coordinated effort, groups including the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and StoptheDrugWar.org have endorsed the boycott.

And it isn't just the "pro-pot lobby," as some media have referred to the reform groups, that is upset. Kellogg was so inundated with calls complaining about its decision to dump Phelps that it had to set up a special phone line to handle them all. The Kellogg Phelps line was getting so many calls it was listed above the line for dealing with questions about salmonella-tainted peanut butter products.

''If you would like to share your comments regarding our relationship with Michael Phelps, please press one to speak to a representative,'' said the recording. ''If you're calling about the recent peanut butter recall, please press two now.''

Boycotts are iffy things; their success depends not only on mobilizing consumers to act, but also on the willingness of the target to be influenced. The groups involved in the boycott said they understood the chances of persuading Kellogg to reverse its decision were not great, but that helping Phelps regain his lucrative endorsement deal was not the only reason for the action.

"We are trying to bring attention to the fact that Michael Phelps has committed an act that millions and millions of Americans have committed," said Amber Langston, SSDP eastern region outreach director, who noted that about 25,000 people had signed on to the group's petition -- begun before the Kellogg announcement -- urging that Phelps not be barred from Olympic competition. "He's still a hero, he's not a bad person, and he doesn't deserve to be punished. Our students have really mobilized to let Kellogg know how we feel."

The Phelps bong brouhaha and the South Carolina arrests of students attending the party where he was photographed could have a silver lining, Langston said. "Those arrests were completely ridiculous, but some good could come of all this by bringing attention to the fact that people are being needlessly punished. Phelps should not be arrested, and neither should the people who were there with him."

Langston may be on to something. Media coverage of the affair has been remarkable in that it has sparked more coming out of the closet as pot smokers than ever before and notable for the mocking tone about the hand-wringing over Phelp's bong photo and marijuana in general.

"This has struck a nerve like never before," said DPA's Ethan Nadelmann. "It is a case of overreach that provides an opportunity for the movement," he said. "When you look at the overwhelming majority of responses to this, it was give me a break, we have a president who smoked pot, enough with this hypocrisy. They are trying to say this sends the wrong message to the kids, but this is a guy who brought home a dozen gold medals."

Kellogg's decision to dump Phelps provided a rare opening for the reform movement, said Nadelmann. It's easier to pressure a corporation than a government, he noted.

"One of the challenges we face in drug policy reform," said Nadelmann, "is that we don't often have the option of targeting corporations doing bad things because we are mostly opposed to government -- not corporate -- policies. But this is an easy case. Also, Kellogg is a very prominent company, and it is helpful to be able to go after a visible target. And to be able to say that millions of Americans will no longer be turning to Kellogg when they have the munchies is a laugh line, but it's also true."

"The boycott call gives us a venue to really put the issue in perspective and talk about why marijuana prohibition is harmful and counterproductive," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "It's a way to put the issue out into the public discussion. Nobody would care if this guy was photographed holding a martini or a bottle of beer, yet there is all this uproar despite there being no dispute that alcohol is the more dangerous drug."

And it's working, Mirken said. "We're a bit blown away by the intensity of the media attention around this. We've been doing radio interviews literally all day, and we have more scheduled for tonight," he said Wednesday. "Even if we don't change Kellogg's position -- and we know that effective boycotts are difficult -- this gives us a huge opportunity to educate the public about the fact that the laws don't make any sense."

Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Passes Senate Committee

A bill that would allow qualified patients to use medical marijuana passed the Minnesota Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee on a bipartisan 8-3 vote Wednesday. The bill, SF 97, would allow patients or designated caregivers to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 12 plants.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/minnesotacapitol.jpg
Minnesota State Capitol
Eligible patients would be those whose illnesses cause cachexia or wasting syndrome, intractable pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, or agitation of Alzheimer's disease. Also eligible are HIV-positive patients and patients suffering "any other medical condition or treatment approved by" the state of Minnesota.

"I believe this will be the year medical marijuana becomes law in Minnesota," said Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), a sponsor of the bill. "We've seen now from the experiences of 13 states -- one-quarter of the country -- that these laws work well, and that the dire warnings of opponents simply don't come true. The voters understand that there is no reason to subject suffering patients to arrest and jail for using a doctor-recommended medicine."

The vote came after testimony from patients and family members, including Joni Whiting of Jordan, Minnesota. A Vietnam War veteran, Whiting told the committee she had strongly disapproved of marijuana until her daughter came down with melanoma and began to suffer nausea and pain from chemotherapy.

"I was opposed to marijuana," Whiting said, "but the nausea my daughter suffered from the chemotherapy was so bad she lost a lot of weight, and the pills the doctor prescribed didn't help -- including Marinol, the THC pill. Marijuana allowed her to eat and also helped ease her pain, and she looked better than I'd seen her in months. I would have rather spent the rest of my life in prison than have denied her the medicine that kept her pain at bay and allowed her to live 89 more days."

"I'm pleased to coauthor this important legislation that will empower doctors and patients while protecting sick and dying Minnesotans from the threat of criminal prosecution," said Sen. Debbie Johnson (R-Ham Lake). "Most FDA-approved drugs assist in managing short-term pain. Chronically ill and terminal patients need alternatives. Medical marijuana is one of those alternatives."

Not everyone testified in favor of the bill, and some opponents went to extremes in their testimony. "This bill would allow 18-year-old boys to grow marijuana in their homes without any outside supervision," said Tom Pritchard of the Minnesota Family Council. "My reading of the bill says it would prevent landlords from regulating the growing and use of marijuana on their premises. This bill would allow marijuana dispensaries to set up shop across the state, in homes and storefronts on main streets and neighborhoods and apartment buildings. Why? The only reason I can see is that it is to legitimize, frankly, the broader acceptance of marijuana in the community's eyes."

Not exactly. Under the bill, if an 18-year-old bill is suffering from one of the designated conditions, he, like any other adult, may grow his own medicine. But while juveniles may also use medical marijuana, only their parents can grow it. The bill does not require landlords to allow medical marijuana grows; it prohibits discrimination against people who use medical marijuana. The bill does provide for tightly-controlled, nonprofit "registered organizations" to grow marijuana for multiple patients.

Pritchard wasn't the only critic, nor even the most unreasonable. James Stinziani, who described himself as a member of the "Lyndon LaRouche operation," told the committee medical marijuana was simply a stalking horse for drug legalization pushed by front groups paid for by billionaire George Soros. "What is happening here -- if anybody is familiar with George Soros -- he is pretty much supporting and funding the major drug operations in the United States."

But the legislators weren't buying the fulminations and conspiracy theories. Now, it's on to the next hurdle, and the hurdle after that. Even if a bill passes the legislature, it faces the opposition of Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), whose veto threats last year stalled a bill then.

Alert: Keep the Promise, President Obama -- Stop the Medical Marijuana Raids!

One of President Obama's campaign promises last year was that he would stop the DEA's cruel and senseless raids on medical marijuana clinics. But less than two weeks since he took office, such raids have already been conducted on two occasions, hitting several clinics in the Los Angeles area last Tuesday.

We are hoping this is just Bush administration holdovers at work, and an administration spokesperson yesterday had encouraging words to this effect in the media -- change is coming on this issue, the Obama administration says. Follow the link below to our feature report to read more.

In the meanwhile, patients and the people who serve them are being subjected to continued injustice. Please click here to e-mail President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to ask them to take action now to stop the raids sooner rather than later. Don't just click, though, use the phone too -- the White House Comment Line is at (202) 456-1111 (be persistent, it's pretty busy right now), and the Attorney General's office is at (202) 353-1555.

If you are on Facebook or might want to be, please click here to sign our petition to President Obama on this issue. Please forward both of these links to your friends too.

Click here to read our feature story on this week's raids and the administration's encouraging response.

Thank you for taking action to bring positive change to US drug policy now!

Police are Trying Very Hard to Bust Michael Phelps for Smoking a Bong

Yesterday, we learned that eight people have been arrested in the aftermath of the Michael Phelps bong photo and the infamous bong itself has been captured and taken into custody. As new details emerge, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there really is a serious campaign underway to prosecute Michael Phelps:

The effort to prosecute Phelps on what would be at most a minor drug charge seem extreme compared to similar cases, lawyers said, and have led some to question whether the sheriff is being overzealous because he's dealing with a celebrity.

The investigators appear to be trying to build a case against Phelps from others — a tactic normally used to bring down drug dealers with a large amounts of cocaine or methamphetamine, not someone who smoked marijuana five months ago, said Chip Price, a Greenville attorney who has dealt with drug cases for 33 years. [AP]

There’s not much left to say about this that I haven’t said already, so I’ll say it again: Sheriff Leon Lott and his henchmen are unhinged drug war lunatics wielding their unchecked powers as arbitrarily and embarrassingly as humanly possible.

To my knowledge, next to no one on the planet supports this ridiculous crusade. So I can only hope that this very visible example of vindictive marijuana enforcement serves to focus public attention on the often pathetic behavior of our supposedly heroic drug war soldiers. Just look at them. Look at what they are doing. And remember that this episode is hardly the first or only time the drug warriors have allowed childish and obsessive pursuits to triumph over the public interest.

If they think destroying Michael Phelps is a good idea, imagine all the other wretched crap they’ve done that you don’t even know about.

USA Swimming Deserves Condemnation for Suspending Michael Phelps

Amidst the massive backlash against Kellogg’s for dropping Michael Phelps, we’ve neglected to target USA Swimming, which suspended him even though they didn’t have to. Their petty moralizing is entirely uncalled for and warrants a response.

On that note, our friends at SAFER have created a form to contact USA Swimming and share your concerns. It only takes a second. Thanks!

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Senate Committee in Bipartisan Vote, 8-3

Minnesota Cares logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
FEBRUARY 11, 2009

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Senate Committee in Bipartisan Vote, 8-3

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)......................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, S.F. 97, cleared its first major hurdle this afternoon, passing the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee in a bipartisan vote of 8 to 3. The committee received spoken and written testimony from a number of patients and family members describing the relief provided by medical marijuana when conventional treatments had failed.

    "I believe this will be the year medical marijuana becomes law in Minnesota," said Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), a sponsor of the bill. "We've seen now from the experiences of 13 states -- one-quarter of the country -- that these laws work well, and that the dire warnings of opponents simply don't come true. The voters understand that there is no reason to subject suffering patients to arrest and jail for using a doctor-recommended medicine."

    One of those testifying was Joni Whiting of Jordan, a disabled Vietnam veteran who had strongly disapproved of marijuana use until her daughter was diagnosed with melanoma and began suffering unbearable nausea and pain from the treatments. "I was opposed to marijuana," Whiting said, "but the nausea my daughter suffered from the chemotherapy was so bad she lost a lot of weight, and the pills the doctor prescribed didn't help -- including Marinol, the THC pill. Marijuana allowed her to eat and also helped ease her pain, and she looked better than I'd seen her in months. I would have rather spent the rest of my life in prison than have denied her the medicine that kept her pain at bay and allowed her to live 89 more days."

    "I'm pleased to co-author this important legislation that will empower doctors and patients while protecting sick and dying Minnesotans from the threat of criminal prosecution," said Sen. Debbie Johnson (R-Ham Lake). "Most FDA-approved drugs assist in managing short-term pain.  Chronically ill and terminal patients need alternatives. Medical marijuana is one of those alternatives."

    Written testimony from patients and others is available at http://www.minnesotacares.org/Health_Housing_and_Family_Security_Committee_Testimony.htm.

    Thirteen states, including one-quarter of the U.S. population, now permit medical use of marijuana under state law. The newest such law was enacted by Michigan voters last November, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote. Medical organizations which have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and American College of Physicians, which noted "marijuana's proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity," in a statement issued last year.

####

Location: 
MN
United States

Medical Cannabis Candle Light Vigil at the Capitol

Consider coming out to hold a candle, reflect on the friends and family of ours with pain and suffering and potentially meet some of your Maryland State Delegates and Senators. We will have great posters for you to hold or feel free to bring some of your own. This is just one of our four events for Medical Marijuana Week! Please do not let transportation be an issue. Contact us (Earthchar@hotmail.com, md4safeaccess@gmail.com) for carpool details, or let us know if you would like to volunteer as a carpool driver. Did you hear the good news? In response to recent DEA raids in California, the Obama White House said “The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind." Now it's more important than ever to show your support for President Obama in his promise to end medical marijuana raids, and to help bring changes to Marylands medical marijuana law that provide safe and legal access for patients in need. For the 7th year in a row activists across the nation will be organizing Medical Marijuana Week. (MMJ Week) Held every year during the week of Feb. 15, it's an empowering week of events and activities to raise awareness about the growing support for safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research throughout the nation.
Date: 
Mon, 02/16/2009 - 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: 
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401
United States

Michael Phelps Saga: "Send a Strong Message" to USA Swimming

[Courtesy of SAFER] Tell them to reinstate Michael Phelps and stop driving athletes to drink! http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5559/t/4030/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=... USA Swimming suspended the 14-time Olympic gold medalist following the publication of a photo showing him using marijuana at an off-season party. USA Swimming was not required to punish Phelps, according to Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, but it "decided to send a strong message to Michael..." That message: athletes must only use alcohol when they party, and they will be punished if they make the safer choice to use marijuana instead. After all, the 23-year-old swimmer would never have been punished had he been photographed chugging Budweiser beer -- an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee. If you agree Michael Phelps should be reinstated and that athletes should not be driven to drink, please take a second to click on the following link and "send a strong message" to Chuck Wielgus and USA Swimming: http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5559/t/4030/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=... Mason Tvert, Executive Director SAFER ⎮ SAFER Voter Education Fund office: 303-861-0033 ⎮ fax: 303-861-0915 mason@saferchoice.orghttp://www.SAFERchoice.org

Marijuana Probably Won’t Give You Cancer in Your Testicles

Everybody’s talking about this week’s news that marijuana might increase your risk of some kind of horrible testicular cancer (especially dudes who smoke lots of pot).

Of course, as you might have guessed, the whole thing is wildly overblown, as NORML’s Paul Armentano explains.

Crazed Sheriff Arrests 8 in Phelps Bong Investigation

There is just no limit to the stupidity that ensues when drug warriors develop a craving for attention:

The Richland County Sheriff's Department has been taking a lot of heat from people in this country and all over the world.

They want to know why Sheriff Leon Lott is going after Michael Phelps.

Lott says the picture indicated a law was being broken in his jurisdiction. He said he couldn't ignore the violation just because Phelps is rich and famous.

We've now learned that since investigators began trying to build a case, they've made eight arrests: seven for drug possession and one for distribution. These are arrests that resulted as the sheriff's department served search warrants.

We've also learned that the department has located and confiscated that bong. [WISTV.com]

Could there ever be a better example of the pettiness and triviality that characterizes the enforcement of our drug laws? Anyone watching this (which now includes a respectable segment of earth’s population), can plainly observe the amazing lameness that the war on drugs has instilled in our public servants.

What could possibly be said in defense of launching an entire police operation for the sole purpose of busting one guy for taking a bong hit at a party?

Lott says the picture indicated a law was being broken in his jurisdiction. He said he couldn't ignore the violation just because Phelps is rich and famous.

Who does he think he’s kidding? Everyone knows this would never be happening if Phelps wasn’t rich and famous. At the risk of giving Sheriff Lott too much credit, I highly doubt this is standard procedure when he finds out someone smoked pot at a party months ago. He’s either completely full of crap about his motivations for targeting Phelps, or he’s truly the biggest drug war jackass in the long and terrible history of the species.

Regardless, it has become perfectly clear that Sheriff Lott won’t stop until he puts the world’s greatest athlete in handcuffs for smoking a bong at a party. With the whole world watching, this crazy cop is prepared to create one of the ugliest, dumbest spectacles in the history of our country’s infinitely embarrassing war on drugs. Perhaps we shouldn’t fault the man for being ambitious.

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