As the medical applications of cannabis grow larger every year, the role of cannabis use in the workplace is becoming a bigger issue. Many employers and employees find themselves in a situation where the use of a prescribed medication is in violation of company policy. Aside from medical usage, cannabis users in general have always had to be careful when it comes to their job.
Whether you’re a medical or recreational user, you have to remember it might not be a good idea to “come out of the closet,” so to speak. One primary reason is that you’re going to be held to a different standard than your co-workers. This double standard is something I discuss in more detail in a different chapter, but it might be most prevalent in the workplace, so it’s important to the topic at hand. It’s also sometimes an ethical or legal dilemma for people who believe they can do their job just as well when using cannabis, which I have a few thoughts on.
If you’re in a work environment that doesn’t tolerate cannabis use, obviously keeping your mouth shut is the best option. But even if you have an official, legal prescription to use, or you’re in an environment where cannabis use is seemingly tolerated, it’s probably still not the best idea.
Think of it this way. Everybody screws up at work. Everyone. Whether it’s being late, doing something incorrectly, or forgetting to complete a task, it happens to all of us. And we all know that, so unless you’re repeatedly making the same mistakes, there’s generally little thought given to the inevitable “brain farts” that plague us all.
But if you’re a well-known cannabis user? Look the fuck out. You’re late? Probably because you were so high you lost track of time. Mix up on an order? Your brain is scrambled from smoking so much weed. And god forbid if you forget to do something—the ultimate stoner sin, which is apparently exclusive to cannabis users.
When your non-using counterparts screw something small up, people just shrug their shoulders. When you do it, you’ll be met with condescending giggles or actual admonishment.
This will be magnified further if you’re in one of the many work environments where alcohol reigns supreme and you don’t drink but do use cannabis regularly. You’re even more of an outsider, and it’s extremely frustrating. It’s completely cool to show up on Monday still hung over, kick off early Friday, and any mistake made can be chalked up to a “rough weekend,” especially if the boss is ringleader of the weekend activities, or just loves booze themselves.
But this is not to say that the anti-cannabis workplace crowd isn’t right sometimes. You have a job to perform, and if you’re truly falling behind, it’s hard to blame them for keying in on you, whether or not cannabis is actually the cause (you might just suck at that specific job). If you’re getting so baked before your shift that you’re out of gas an hour in, that’s a problem. You have agreed to fulfill certain duties, and if cannabis is getting in the way of that, it’s you that’s in the wrong.
If you normally use cannabis all the time and intend on continuing to do so once you’re hired, I have a semi-serious suggestion to make it fair to everyone. Don’t say a word about your cannabis use, but make sure you’re as “high” for the interview and your probation/training period as you plan on being while you work, whether it’s a job washing dishes or at a law firm.
First, you’re giving your employer an honest representation of what they’re going to be getting from you. If you can use cannabis and do your job, you shouldn’t have a problem getting through the interview or training without being discovered.
Secondly, you’ll avoid the aforementioned double standard and be treated like everyone else if you don’t say anything. And if you do get outed for being high, you clearly aren’t able to perform while using.
I see no ethical dilemma with showing up for a shift with THC in my system and not telling anyone, when I was evaluated and deemed capable by management during a process in which I had the exact same levels of THC in my bloodstream. Any criticism of cannabis use at that point is pure discrimination.
It’s like the old tree falling in the forest riddle. If you’re doing an excellent job and nobody can tell you’re “stoned,” are you really stoned?
With regard to staying silent, also remember that because of liability issues, your employer or boss can never really condone your using in most cases. Doing so could be a legal nightmare if you hurt yourself and tried to use it against them. Your boss might actually be totally cool with you using cannabis while working but can never actually say it and has no option but to discipline you if caught. If you do your job and stay under the radar, you’ll never put them in that position.
However, you also need to understand the potential consequences of using while working if your job has the potential to harm others, regardless of whether or not cannabis was actually the cause of an accident. If you’re something like a bus driver or heavy machinery operator and you have an accident that kills or seriously injures someone, you’re looking at a world of trouble, and maybe even jail time. I would strongly recommend not using cannabis while working, or finding a new career.
I truly believe a regular, experienced user could do virtually any job while using, but society and the courts are not going to see it that way. And if you can’t handle getting high, know it’s dangerous, do it anyway, and then cause an accident that kills someone? You probably deserve to go to the can for a little while.
And though this is not strictly tied to the workplace, the same thing goes for driving. I won’t bother trying to quell the frenzied alarmism going on surrounding cannabis use and driving, but I will warn everyone to be very careful. With legalization, anti-cannabis crusaders are using road safety as one of their final scare tactics to terrify the public and vilify users. Whether cannabis use is the cause or not, if you get in an accident with THC in your bloodstream and kill someone, you’re fucked.
In Canada, the anti-cannabis population’s lust for vengeance against users has been quenched with a proposed 14-year sentence if you’re involved in a fatal collision with weed in your system. Be careful.
This is all assuming you’re using cannabis before or during your workday, which I can only say is a personal choice with potential consequences. But it’s a choice millions of people have made successfully.
I don’t want to alarm those outside the cannabis community, but almost every conceivable industry or job has a small percentage of people getting high while working every day. Having spent 20 years involved in the industry, I’ve met teachers, firefighters, loggers, truck drivers, nurses, athletes, actors, accountants, and everything in between who do their jobs while using cannabis. I wouldn’t advise people one way or the other, but many have been doing this safely and effectively for years before I ever started spouting off about it.
The biggest way cannabis use might be an issue for someone who only uses at night or on the weekends would be urine testing. Including cannabis in any drug testing is a complete joke, but an unfortunate reality for some. You only have three options in this situation: quit cannabis, quit the job, or find some clean urine. Pretty simple.
I hope in the future people start to accept that cannabis use and performing a job are not mutually exclusive. In the meantime, I would suggest keeping things quiet is probably best. In general, I don’t believe cannabis users should hide what they do. But in the case of your professional life, I think it’s the wrong place to take a stand. It’s already tough enough to get ahead and carve out a career. The last thing you need is to be shutting doors or having some arbitrary double standard applied to you.
If you choose to use cannabis while working, understand your primary responsibility is to do your job, and that cannabis is secondary. Understand the potential consequences—they’re real, whether they’re fair or not. But in most cases, if you show up and do a good job, your cannabis use will only be as big of an issue as you choose to make it.