Drug Policy

Michael Phelps' Bong Buddies Busted

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A Columbia, South Carolina, TV station reports that the Richland County Sheriff's Department has arrested eight people on marijuana charges in connection with the November party where Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was photographed taking a bong hit. After serving a search warrant on the house where the party was held, says WIS-TV, the department charged seven people with marijuana possession and one with distribution. They also confiscated the world-famous bong, whose owner reportedly was trying to sell it on eBay for $100,000. Phelps himself has not been charged, but Sheriff Leon Lott has photographic evidence linking him to the house, plus the gold medalist's public admission of "regrettable behavior."

Although the house is within Columbia's city limits, WIS-TV reports, "the Columbia Police Department decided not to initiate or take an active role in the investigation." South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford also seems to think police have better things to do. On the Fox News Channel on Sunday, Geraldo Rivera asked him whether Phelps should be prosecuted, and Sanford replied, "I don't see what it gets at this point."

Norm Kent, an attorney who serves on NORML's board of directors, explains why the case against Phelps is not the slam dunk you might think it is.

Meanwhile, drug policy reformers are urging Phelps-friendly consumers to boycott Kellogg's products, or at least register a complaint with the food company, in response to its decision to cancel the swimmer's sponsorship deal. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, writes:

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….

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!

Previous Reason coverage of the Phelps flogging here, here, here, here, and here.

[Thanks to Tom Angell at LEAP for the tip.]