Swimmer Michael Phelps, winner of 18 gold Olympic medals has been dubbed by the media as the “greatest olympian in history.”  But in 2009, Phelps was suspended by USA Swimming after he was photographed smoking pot from a bong. It’s all forgotten now for Phelps, just as it is for President Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – and countless other accomplished, successful and wonderful people who have smoked marijuana and gone on to do great things. But for millions of other Americans caught in the marijuana wars, the story is not a happy one…

According to FBI statistics, from 1996 to 2010 more than eleven million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses. And these are not trafficking or distribution offenses. 10 million of the 11 million arrests have been for simple possession of personal use quantities.

Many of those arrested end up in prison, on parole, and with permanent criminal records. For these people – mostly young, mostly poor, and predominately black and hispanic – success in life becomes vastly more difficult. Not because of the marijuana (pot didn’t slow down the greatest Olympian in history) but because a criminal charge means incarceration, expulsion from school, loss of employment, denial of financial aid or deportation.

Those like Phelps, President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg, who avoided arrest, soon forget how close they were to ruination, if their marijuana use ended in an arrest, and not just a chapter in a memoir. Many future Olympians or presidents are denied the chance to reach their full potential because of the debilitating effects of a marijuana conviction on their record.

So while we all hail Michael Phelps, let’s not forget about the young people today who are being told to empty their pockets by the jump out squads, or who are being seized at concerts, or on the highways, for simple possession of pot.

Categories: Marijuana Laws

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