Backlash against Kellogg's: would legalizing marijuana be good for the economy?

Michael Phelps is an endorsement darling, could he soon become the accidental poster boy for the "legalize marijuana" movement?

Kellogg's is experiencing backlash for dumping Phelps over his bong smoking photo that appeared in last Sunday's British tabloid, News of the World.

The cereal and snack manufacturer says Phelps' behavior was "not consistent with the image of [Kellogg's]." (Seth Meyers of SNL would beg to differ, watch the video below). Phelps' image already appears on boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and Corn Flakes, which are selling on ebay. (No recall yet).

Many Deals of Michael Phelps

    Kellogg's is experiencing backlash for dumping its sponsorship deal with Michael Phelps due to a British newspaper publishing photos of him smoking marijuana from a bong.

    Kellogg Co. / AP

    Visa Inc. has had a long-standing relationship with Michael Phelps, and made the champion swimmer the focus of its current "Go World" campaign. When Phelps won his fourth gold medal in Beijing -- giving him a record all-time total of 10 golds -- and his eighth Beijing gold on Saturday, the credit card processor aired spots the very next commercial breaks cheering the milestones.

    Visa Inc. / AP

    With a recent lap around the Hilton Beijing pool, Phelps closed out the Hilton "Swim to Beijing" Relay, a multi-city charity event to raise funds for the USA Swimming Foundation to support swim education programs across the United States. Hilton Hotels & Resorts is also an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team.

    Getty Images / AP

    AT&T, the U.S. Olympic Team's official telecommunications sponsor, featured Phelps and other Olympic athletes and aspirants in a number of spots, as well as provided products and services in support of the U.S. Olympic Team.

    Gregg DeGuire, WireImage

    Swimsuit maker Speedo, which outfitted the U.S. team along with many other nations' swimmers, boasts that 23 out of the 25 swimming world records set at the Beijing Games were set by Phelps and other athletes wearing Speedo's LZR RACER suits.

    Mike Stobe, Getty Images

As CNBC's Sports Biz columnist Darren Rovell points out, an organization called Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, DC-based lobbying group with 26,000 members, is leading a boycott against Kellogg's, calling their treatment of Phelps "hypocritical and disgusting."

Rob Kampia, the executive director of MPP, told CNBC, "Kellogg's had no problem signing Phelps when he had a conviction for drunk driving (DUI in 2004), 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."
A Facebook page has already sprung up with over 6,000 members lashing out at Kellogg's for "criminalizing" Phelps. Seth Meyers on SNL also gave the brand, popular among kids, a good ribbing and offered some advice to moms and dads, "Parents, if your kid says 'Michael Phelps smokes pot why can't I?' Just say, 'You can, right after you win twelve gold medals for your country.''"

The Phelps phenomenon could get swept up into another one buzzing through the blogosphere: legalizing marijuana to bring in tax revenue and to create jobs. If there's ever a time pot had a chance of becoming legal, it's right now. With jobs and businesses disappearing at an astonishing rate, why not legalize something that's already popular and widely used? (How do I know it's popular? How else would Seth Rogen have a career.)

After digging around, and thinking back to my sociology classes in college, here are some pretty enticing reasons to legalize marijuana:
  • It's estimated by a team of 500 economists, including Nobel laureate Milton Friedman who advised Nixon and Reagan, that taxing marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes could bring in $6.2 billion annually.
  • Job creation: farming, packaging, distribution, and of course, marketing--it's going to be a crowded playing field.
  • According to those 500 economists, in an open letter to 'the President, Congress, Governors, and State Legislatures', legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion in state and federal spending a year.
  • The criminals who sell drugs can be caught for not paying their
    taxes. (It's how they finally nabbed Al Capone).
  • Legalizing it would create government jobs in the F.D.A. to ensure quality.
  • According to a report by ABC News two years ago, marijuana is a cash crop in the U.S. valued at $35.8 billion annually compared to $23.3 billion for corn and $7.5 billion for wheat. ( ABC News) The government and private business might as well cash-in.
  • If you legalize it, there's a chance it won't be cool anymore. The Netherlands, where small amounts of marijuana are sold in coffee shops, have a lower rate of drug use for every kind of drug compared to the U.S.
Which do you think is more controversial: giving nearly a trillion tax-payer dollars to the banks that got us into the severest economic crisis since the Great Depression or legalizing marijuana?
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