Discuss marijuana use at work? Why not, right? After all, Americans may not live to work, but we absolutely live at work.
Americans spend an average of almost nine hours a day on work or “work-related activities,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working more than you sleep is the rule: Forty percent of us reported to Gallup working well over 40 hours a week.
We will see more of our coworkers than we’ll see of our friends, families, life partners — a fair number of whom entered our lives via the workplace, because where else are you going to meet someone? — and whatever children we produce.
Such familiarity makes it tempting to treat the workplace with total honesty. Why not share with your cubicle-mates on Monday morning the exact details of what happened over the weekend — they were probably there anyway!
Here’s a good reason: If it’s talking about your marijuana use, it can get you fired.
Legal or not, medical or not, cannabis users are not a protected class in America. State and federal “Drug-Free Workplace” acts have given employers the explicit right to fire employees for illegal drug use. And, as courts have upheld, this means marijuana use is still a fireable offense, even in states where cannabis consumption is legal for adults 21 and over.
Some are lucky enough to be in-demand skilled workers, where employers will turn a blind eye to reprehensible behavior as well as relatively benign recreational marijuana use. The rest, however, have to weigh our options very carefully when judging to come out of the “cannabis closet” — and how to comport ourselves when we do.
The first and most obvious consideration to weigh is whether being outre with marijuana use will get you fired. For people working in “public-safety” positions with regular contact with the public, such as bus driver, police officer, and anyone working with heavy machinery, drug tests aren’t just a not-so-subtle means of social control, allowing employers a convenient excuse to discard a qualified worker they just don’t want — they’re part of the job.
While we’d love for cops to publicly declare themselves to be secret stoners, they would quite probably soon no longer be cops — and can do us all more good by remaining on the force than being off it. Likewise with workers in other positions. Until American groks the fact that cannabis metabolites stay in the body for days or weeks after use — and until we’re as comfortable with the notion of an airline pilot getting stoned on the weekends as we are with them flying 300 people through the air at 30,000 feet with a brutal hangover — it’s best to stay at least anonymous.
As important as cannabis freedom is, economic freedom is more important. Supporting cannabis use is simply not worth the risk of losing a good career. You’re better protecting your economic power and supporting legalization in other ways — like among your friends and family.
At the same time, when the subject comes up in the workplace it’s perfectly appropriate to be an educated advocate and voice your support for legalization. You can correct the record and point out that dispensaries don’t cause crime and that legalization hasn’t led to more kids using marijuana. You could even add the qualifier, “If I could, I absolutely would!”
For the rest of us, it’s a measure of judging the workplace atmosphere and, when we decide to be public about smoking pot, behaving as a combination model citizen, advocate, and ambassador — who has a keen sense of both timing and decorum.
If you’re the boss, some of these rules fly out the window — because you make the rules — but the responsibility to create an example of positive, beneficial cannabis use is all the greater.
Likewise, if you live in a legal state like California or Colorado, the risk is significantly lower than if you’re in Texas or Tennessee. There’s a trade-off in that, though — you’re much more valuable as a stoner role model at work in the Deep South, but you also have more to lose.
Behavior modeling is a very big deal. Recounting, in meticulous and graphic detail, the length and breadth of last weekend’s alcohol use, down to the last drop of Jager and the last blurry visions of the bathroom floor, is juvenile, tedious — and a possible sign of destructive behavior requiring professional intervention.
Even though excessive marijuana use is by all indications a healthier behavior than binge drinking, this doesn’t make it actually healthy. Nobody really wants to hear how lit you were, dude, or how many globs you slammed in an evening’s time. This is high school-level banter and has no place in the workplace, or in the life of a healthy and productive adult, whether it’s on social media, Slack, or whispered furtively in the elevator.
But! If someone asks you what you did on Friday, and you got stoned and watched a movie, or you were able to function properly because cannabis solved your chronic pain or ADHD, then you should feel empowered to say so.
You will also have to be prepared for some unfair treatment. There is absolutely a double standard at play here. Snapchatting cocktails at sunset and Instagramming beers hoisted at the ballpark is typical Millennial behavior. Nobody will snicker and assume you start every morning with a Bloody Mary if they know you drink. If you’re a high performer on the sales team and you are a marijuana user, it’ll be easier and more conducive to openness than if you’re barely getting to work on time or on probation yet again.
And whether or not your job allows you to consume cannabis on your off-hours, you can be an advocate for others. If you have a family member whose life was positively impacted by medical marijuana, rejoice! Be glad! And share the love.