Elon Musk’s Marijuana Hypocrisy: Why Tesla CEO Isn’t The Hero Cannabis Users Want Him To Be - by Skye Hawthorne
On Thursday, September 6th, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sent the media into a frenzy by taking a hit off of a blunt – a rolled cigarette consisting of marijuana mixed with tobacco – during an interview with comedian Joe Rogan on his podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” and in the process, launched the Internet into a heated debate.
First and foremost, his puff spooked Tesla investors. Immediately after the airing on Friday, the company’s share price plummeted, nine percent lower at the end of the day than it was at the start. Mainstream media pundits were just as alarmed. A USA Today article published the next day began by declaring that, “Elon Musk appeared to smoke marijuana briefly on camera during a podcast appearance, fueling concern among critics who say his behavior is becoming increasingly concerning and erratic.” A Fox News story published the same day took an even less favorable stance, saying, “Musk may have violated his company’s code of business conduct and ethics after he was captured smoking marijuana.”
Those who know me know I almost never say this, but Fox News may actually have a point. By smoking a joint on Rogan’s podcast, Musk is doing the very same thing for which his own employees have been fired.
Don’t get me wrong, the media’s kneejerk negative response to Musk’s pot use is overblown and wholly uninformed on the issue. Very few peer-reviewed studies have been done on marijuana due to its status as a federally controlled, schedule one drug with no accepted medical benefits, but the few studies that do exist have shown that occasional marijuana use, especially among adults old enough to consume it in states where it is now legal, has no negative side-effects. As a drug, it is much harder to get addicted to marijuana than to alcohol, and it is physically impossible to die of overdose on marijuana. Contrast that to alcohol, which, according to the CDC, is responsible for a staggering 1 in 10 deaths among adults aged 20-64 in this country.
So no, I do not have a moral objection to Musk’s smoking a joint. Nor do I have an objection to him smoking a joint on a widely distributed podcast; after all, he was drinking whiskey on air as well, and even though the same policy that the Fox News article was referencing would prohibit his being under the influence of alcohol, the article doesn’t make a peep about the fact that he and Joe Rogan were drinking whiskey throughout the course of the two and a half hour conversation that “captured” Musk smoking weed. No, my objections are twofold. In light of Musk’s recent behavior, I object to the stoner community’s characterization of him as one of their heroes, and most importantly, I object to his hypocrisy in lighting up while his company still fires people found to have THC in their systems.
Elon Musk, by smoking weed on the world stage, joins a growing list of power players, dead and alive, who have admitted to using marijuana, a list that includes Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, David Brooks, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah, and many, many others. And every time a piece of information like this comes out, stoners see this as a cause to rejoice; after all, every successful figure who admits to having used cannabis chips away at a fundamentally flawed stereotype: the Cheech & Chong caricature of the lazy, unmotivated, and forgetful pot smoker. My advice to pot smokers: Don’t rejoice. It’s not that Musk hasn’t been successful – he has – or that he hasn’t been hard working – he most certainly has. In fact, that’s part of the problem. Musk, especially recently, has lived an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle, rarely if ever sleeping. By tweeting publicly that sleep is not an option and insisting that he has to work 120-hour weeks to succeed, he is encouraging a generation of young people who revere him to put their bodies through a grueling, unhealthy work regime, effectively telling them that his is the only path to success. He’s taken very few breaks from his work recently, and several of them have been to make baseless accusations of pedophilia against a heroic diver in Thailand. This is about as far from “emotionally healthy” as you can get, and his tweets about taking Tesla private at $420 a share don’t do much to shore up his image. Now, has he revolutionized the electric car industry? Absolutely. But stoners looking for examples of healthy, successful tokers should not point to him as their shining star, because if all the evidence is to be believed, Elon Musk is anything but healthy.
But at the end of the day, while I wish Musk would be a better role model to aspiring innovators, I fundamentally believe he has the right to do whatever he wants when it comes to his own body. How much sleep he wants to get and what he chooses to put into his own body should be his choice and his alone. And I’m not the only one with this conviction. When asked for his thoughts on the matter, renowned astrophysicist and ‘Cosmos’ host Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “Let the man get high if he wants to get high.” I could not agree more. When it comes to such a relatively harmless drug, any adult should be able to get high if they want to. And that’s why it is beyond twisted that, according to Bloomberg magazine, a single mother, Crystal Guardado, was fired from Tesla for testing positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient of weed and a compound that stays in your system for days or even weeks, long after the high itself has worn off.
According to Guardado, the THC tinctures she uses were doctor-prescribed, and she had notified the company about her use well in advance of her being fired. She believes that her dismissal from the company was actually about her decision to support the United Auto Workers union and speak out about safety issues, and the results of her drug test simply gave the Tesla board of directors the excuse they needed to let her go. As for the video clip of Musk smoking a spliff with Joe Rogan, it was, she said, “just like a slap in the face to me and my son.”
Yeah. Here you have a woman, fired for having a substance in her bloodstream she could have consumed days ago, a substance legal in California, the state in which she was working. If something like that happened to me, or to someone I loved, it would feel like a big fat slap in the face. And like I said earlier, Fox news might have a point. He did violate the exact same policies that have gotten his employees dismissed. Until Musk is willing to publicly confront the hypocrisy he’s created by smoking reefer on Joe Rogan’s podcast while hard working people are fired for testing positive for THC in politically motivated drug tests, he cannot and will not be the hero cannabis users want him to be.