Snap, crackle ... pot?
Bursting with indignation, legions of marijuana advocates are
urging a boycott of Kellogg Co., including all of its popular
munchies, for deciding to cut ties with Olympic hero Michael Phelps
after he was photographed with a pot pipe.
The leader of one of the biggest legalize-pot organizations, the
Marijuana Policy Project, called Kellogg's action "hypocritical
and disgusting," and said he'd never seen his membership so angry,
with more than 2,300 of them signing an online petition.
"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," said Rob Kampia, the group's executive
director. "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."
Also urging a boycott were the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the
Drug Policy Alliance. They encouraged their members to contact
Kellogg to vent their views.
In one sign of the campaign's impact, the Phelps saga took
precedence over the tainted peanut butter outbreak in the recorded
reply on Kellogg's consumer hot line Tuesday.
"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."
From Kellogg's media office, there was no immediate reply to a
request for an assessment of the boycott campaign. A Kellogg
spokeswoman, Kris Charles, said by e-mail, "Our contract with
Michael Phelps was set to expire at the end of February and we made
a business decision not to extend that contract."
Last week, the company announced his contract would end and
described Phelps' conduct as "not consistent with the image of
Kellogg." Kellogg has been placing images of Phelps on the fronts
of Frosted Flakes and Corn Flakes boxes since September, after the
swimmer's record-shattering haul of eight gold medals at the
The groups calling for the boycott were angry at Kellogg, but
also eager to use the opportunity to restate long-standing calls
for decriminalization of pot.
"It's not just that Michael Phelps did what millions of other
twenty-somethings do," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of
the Drug Policy Alliance. "It's that he did what over one hundred
million Americans have done at least once in their lives, including
the president, former presidents, members of the U.S. Congress and
Similar commentary sounded even in mainstream media - including
columns in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and
National Review Online questioning the rationale and effectiveness
of U.S. marijuana laws.
Of Phelps' numerous big-name sponsors, Kellogg was the only one
to publicly cut ties after the pot photo emerged. While it received
some support, the giant food company has also been singled out for
mockery by a host of comedians, bloggers and others.
On Saturday Night Live, Seth Myers questioned whether marijuana
use was in fact at odds with Kellogg's image.
"Every one of your mascots is a wild-eyed cartoon character
with uncontrollable munchies," Myers said. "Every one of your
products sounds like a wish a genie granted at a Phish concert."
On the Huffington Post, blogger Lee Stranahan pursued that theme
in a proposed petition to the company that said in part, "We
believe that most people over the age of 12 would not eat Kellogg's
products were they not wicked high."
Stranahan's petition concluded with this call-to-arms:
"Given all these facts and the total disregard for your
customer base ... we the undersigned plan to BOYCOTT your products.
And we're serious. Even though the Pop Tarts thing will be HARD."
(Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)