Marijuana is becoming culturally mainstream across the United States, but it’s still a sign of trouble, apparently, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). After Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk famously took a toke from a joint on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, NASA became concerned about the use of marijuana. SpaceX is a partner with NASA and is currently contracted to launch cargo ships to the International Space Station.
Elon Musk Sparks Up Questions
The SpaceX Falcon 9 also was recently certified as a Category 3 Launch Vehicle by NASA. Category 3 involves the space agency’s “highest cost and most complex scientific missions.”
NASA officials told the Washington Post that they are reviewing the work done so far by SpaceX and ensuring that the private company adheres to a drug-free workplace. The federal government still lists marijuana as Schedule I illegal drug even as more than half the states have legalized it for medical or recreational use.
What makes this interesting for those who don’t work at SpaceX is that it again highlights an issue that has come up as marijuana legalization has spread: How will workplaces deal with cannabis use in their workforce?
That’s because using marijuana when not at the workplace can certainly show up on a drug test, even days later.
Further, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, in discussing the SpaceX review with the Washington Post, talked about “culture.” He said that “culture and leadership start at the top” in reference to Musk taking a drag from a joint on the show.
In a statement to The Verge, a NASA spokesperson referred to the review as “a cultural assessment study in coordination with our commercial partners to ensure the companies are meeting NASA’s requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment.”
Musk also drank whiskey during the podcast. It’s also worth noting that the interview took place in California, where adult-use marijuana is legal.
Marijuana and the Workplace
Questions aside about whether the CEO of a company smoking marijuana creates a culture of marijuana use, the issues around testing workers has come up repeatedly.
Earlier this year, AutoNation announced that it would no longer include marijuana in employee drug tests. Other companies have followed suit in 2018, according to the Associated Press, although most have not advertised this fact.
Part of the consideration of dropping marijuana from drug tests is the tight labor market. Many businesses don’t want to lose potential employees who may have smoked marijuana while not at work, according to the AP.
Other businesses are considering what positions they may still test for because the job presents safety issues if the employee is impaired. That was certainly the focus in NASA’s argument about checking into SpaceX.
That said, marijuana tests can detect marijuana that was consumed sometime before, meaning that even a person who tests positive is not necessarily impaired on the job.