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A case for marijuana in the workplace


Look mom, I can smoke Marijuana at work

Marijuana in the workplace

Here in the state of Washington, Cannabis Sativa, aka Weed, aka Marijuana, aka Whacky Tabacky has been legalized.  From a personal perspective, I don’t smoke anything except cigars so this isn’t good or bad news for me.  I don’t have anything against the Ganja, it just never appealed to me. Despite my lack of personal interest, I find myself involved in more marijuana conversations now that this taboo substance has recently been legalized here in my home state. Who would have ever thought that an HR guy would be discussing the option of THC in the workplace? For that matter, who would have thought a candidate’s mother would show up for the job interview (and want to sit in) or that employees could work from home. My how times have changed.  

Biased opinion

Maybe I am getting asked about it because folks think that if an HR person is going to be good the burning herb in the workplace, it will be liberally minded HRNasty.  Not sure what it is, but the conversations sure are interesting, and for the record, they would be wrong. 

Amongst my small circle of friends, there are a few founders, owners and hiring managers. I feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to rap with these individuals as it gives me the opportunity to hear additional data points from folks making decisions around hiring, corporate culture, vendor relationships, etc. I recently went on a road trip with a buddy who has a company and of course, we went down our usual set of topics as it relates to building his company and corporate culture.

His company has over 300 employees and over three-quarters of them are on the manufacturing side of the house. The topic of marijuana in the workplace came up and I thought that this was a no-brainer discussion. My buddy is a smart guy and he had a couple of legit concerns. Basically, he was asking me what I thought about the stoners passing around the bong around in the workplace. 

Give me a break

My initial reaction was “Are you fricking kidding me?  Weed in the workplace?  Give me a break!”  But I used my HR training, held my tongue, and heard him out. It wouldn’t be very HR of me to unload on him before I heard him out.    

My buddy, let’s call him “Drug Pusher” moving forward has a company and he had been thinking about putting their employees through regular and random drug testing, partly because it is a manufacturing plant operating heavy machinery and partly because they thought it was the smart thing to do. Of course, I let Drug Pusher know that he “should have put that drug test policy into place before the legalization of weed was passed” and laughed my ass off at his unfortunate timing Kobayashi Maru no-win situation. It’s always so fun to play quarterback HR asshole.      

Common Sense

I had a couple of thoughts, and although I get it is legal, I think this is common HR(Nasty) sense.

No frickin’ drugs in the workplace where heavy machinery is involved. End of conversation.  I get there are prescription uppers, downers, and all-a-rounders, but two things come to mind: 

  1. This crew operates heavy machinery. 
  2. This crew interacts one-on-one with customers. If I were a customer and I was paying his crew 50.00 to 80.00 an hour per person, you can bet your ass, I don’t want to see any stoned vendors on our campus moving heavy equipment or furniture.  I don’t want to smell the ganja on anyone and I don’t want our employees having to jostle with bloodshot eyes at the vending machine for Doritos.
  3. This crew operates heavy machinery!!!! Is it just me??

Always an exception

OK, OK, I get it.  Some of us are on anti-depressants. Apparently, with our lack of rain, Seattle has the highest percentage per capita of depressed people. 

Although anti-depressants and THC are both prescription drugs, my litmus test is as the following:

What will your customers think about any interaction with one of your employee that is high on any drug?

I know that I don’t want to buy any product or service and turn my hard-earned money over to a cashier that is stoned.  Even if I am at a Marijuana dispensary and picking up a prescription I don’t want to turn my money over to someone who is high.

The irrational rational

Drug Pushers argument was that if he drug tested his crew, he could easily lose 20 to 30% of his workforce.  A workforce that was highly trained, efficient and if let go from his company would probably go to a direct competitor, and work their ass off just out of spite.

He was also getting arguments from some of his leads that with Marijuana legal, recognized as a pain reliever, that it should be recognized and approved.

Sorry, no can do in the house of HRNasty.  My argument to him was hard, fast and delivers swift justice. 

Alcohol is “legal” in the state of Washington, but it doesn’t mean you can come to work drunk. Do you allow your employees to operate heavy machinery or drive your trucks on alcohol?

Drunk = Fired

Come to work drunk at any job, and you will it will be tough to defend your permanent dismissal.  This isn’t just a CLM, (Career Limiting Move) this is a CEM.  Career-Ending Move. I know I don’t want to fork my money over to someone for services rendered that has gin or vodka oozing from their pores.  And this is an HR asshole way of looking at it, but if someone who is getting high on company time wants to go to the competition, show them the door.  As a business owner, you couldn’t do yourself a bigger favor.

At the end of the day, he has a customer facing crew, and the company paying him has a choice of who they want to deal with.   

Tech heavy machinery

Am I against Marijuana?  No, and I am glad I don’t face this dilemma.  The heaviest machinery our crew operates is a MacBook Pro and a mouse. 

My moral with this post is that just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is OK in the workplace and if you think showing up high because the drug is legal is OK, think again. Think about the customer.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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