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Kellogg's Wimps Out Over Phelps's Bong Hit: What Century Are They Living in?

While hypocrisy is hardly rare in American life, Kellogg's decision not to renew his endorsement contract is really egregious.
 
 
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Cereal giant Kellogg's has announced that it won't renew Olympic swim champion Michael Phelps' endorsement contract because he's been photographed apparently smoking marijuana. While hypocrisy is hardly rare in American life, this is a particularly egregious example.

And it's already causing thousands of Americans to swear off Rice Krispies and other Kellogg's products.

"Michael's most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg," a company spokesperson told Ad Age.

Are they kidding? In 2004, Phelps pleaded guilty to drunken driving, 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.

Let's get real here. If Phelps had been photographed hoisting a Budweiser, no one would have said a word. But there is simply no question that if one wants to relax with a mood-altering substance, marijuana 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 (for tobacco, by the way, it's 32 percent).

Alcohol is massively more toxic. Every year, people die from alcohol overdoses (too often in college drinking parties and the like). 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 the chronic effects of even heavy marijuana use are relatively mild and decidedly nonlethal.

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. … Cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication…"

People are already talking about a boycott of Kellogg's, while others are urging folks to contact the company and complain. I don't know if a boycott will work -- they're difficult to pull off, and most don't succeed. But I do know that there are plenty of other breakfast-cereal makers that haven't indulged in such stupidity and hypocrisy, and they will be getting my business for a while.

Bruce Mirken is communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project .

 
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