Week in Review: Anything-Goes Cannabis Policies Fading as Industry Matures

By Chris Walsh

Many cannabis companies have long accepted – and at times encouraged – marijuana use by employees while on the clock, even if doing so runs afoul of local laws.

But a shift is underway as the industry grows up and seeks to establish legitimacy within the mainstream business world.

Case in point: OpenVape – a Colorado-based business that makes vaporizers and related products – announced this week that it is barring employees at its corporate office from consuming cannabis on the job and before they come in for the day (workers who handle cannabis oils at its other locations already cannot consume at work due to state laws).

While it’s certainly not the first marijuana-related company to go this route, an increasing number of businesses – both those that handle cannabis as well as those that don’t – are moving in this direction by discouraging or even outright prohibiting employees from consuming during work hours.

It’s an important step for an industry seeking credibility with investors, bankers, state and local officials, the public and traditional businesses. And it’s crucial if cannabis businesses want to be taken seriously.

“We’re in an industry that was built on renegades and outlaws, so there’s a bit of rebellion in it,” said Todd Mitchem, OpenVape’s chief revenue officer. “But we started to feel like it’s time to move forward. As a leading company in the industry, we recognized that we have to set an example for other businesses. We started thinking, how would a billion-dollar company approach this? They would have some policies in place.”

Mitchem made it clear that the move is part of a bigger policy change at OpenVape focused on making a distinction between cannabis and dangerous drugs such as cocaine – the use of which at any time by employees will not be tolerated.

Its new policies on cannabis consumption, though, are particularly notable because they represent a clear break from some aspects of the cannabis culture.

Going forward, OpenVape employees cannot use cannabis while on the clock at its corporate offices or working during business hours – including when driving – though workers can consume at after-hours gatherings and events. The company also reserves the right to test employees involved in an accident while working to see whether they were under the influence of cannabis, just as it might test for alcohol and other drugs.

“We don’t want to vilify cannabis use – it’s the industry we’re in and what we believe,” Mitchem said. “But we want to show what responsible use looks like. We ask employees not to consume at work or go out and become impaired, whether that’s using cannabis or having a beer at lunch.”

Banning consumption at work is not an easy decision, as it can create some near-term headaches with employees. Many workers see it as a perk of working in the marijuana industry, while others who need it for pain relief feel they should be able to medicate whenever they choose. The push-back can be significant.

Just ask Berkeley Patients Group, which enacted a drug policy that prohibits medical cannabis consumption at work several years ago, when doing so was especially taboo in some markets.

Sean Luse, chief operations officer of the California-based dispensary, said it was a difficult transition for some workers.

In the end, though, Berkeley Patients Group felt that banning marijuana use on the job was critical to creating a professional work climate while also respecting the medical needs of employees.

“It was quite the culture change to implement, but we couldn’t imagine life without those policies now,” Luse said.

Many cannabis businesses have tightened up their consumption policies in recent years, either because of state laws or because of a general desire to enact responsible policies.

As the industry advances, all businesses will have to move in this direction.

“I believe all cannabis companies, if they haven’t already, will have to address the issue of cannabis consumption in the workplace,” Luse said. “In order to be taken seriously by government officials and the general public and run responsible businesses, cannabis companies must enact common-sense policies to professionalize operations and create a safe work environment.”

21 comments on “Week in Review: Anything-Goes Cannabis Policies Fading as Industry Matures
  1. JoshyBalls on

    And this is why I don’t support legalization movements anymore. Having the law on your side is such a buzz kill. I just wanted to buy it in stores for convenience, but I’d rather be a criminal than follow this hypocrisy. And honestly, who’s not still high at work. Nobody can tell me when I’m high or not. It’s not alcohol, it’s pot. I no longer support OpenVape and if this is the future of Colorado I wouldn’t give a bucket of piss to participate with these corporate sell outs.

  2. Shane Doull on

    Supporter. I have run a Collective, made Canna-Productions and run a Canna-TVnetwork. Some people are not productive, make mistakes or space-out when they consume, plain and simple. Others rock the Nation! 😉
    No biggee…they can puff when work is done.

  3. Sicmarc on

    I’m with Josh. In many ways cannabis consumption while at work is beneficial for many Employees. It relieves boredom, stimulates creativity and is very useful for curing the pain many Persons experience due to old age, accidents, ect. As long as an Employee does their job effectively? It is none of the Employers business what Employees consume before arriving or during their lunch or break. I mean, if they ban cannabis use? It would only be fair to ban any mind-altering substance including prescription drugs, coffee or tea.

  4. golf or die on

    I am just so impressed how far we have gone in the past 5 years, It is going to be a long hard battle but it will happen. In my kids lives it will be recreational in 50 states,how awesome!!!!!

  5. JoshyBalls on

    I’m happy to see support for my concerns. So far Colorado has been a shining beacon to the rest of us who still suffer from prohibition. Keep moving forward, look at what generations have worked for to rid the corporate atmosphere of discrimination.

    If you have 100 employees and everybody takes a weed nap everyday, you might need to cut down on consumption. But bad employees are lacking in character, it’s not fair to blame a plant. A person who is “lazy on pot” is scapegoating on pot.

    Blame the person, don’t discriminate. As Bob Marley said “the herb reveals you to your true self”. I will admit it’s a powerful plants, but it doesn’t make anybody do anything but be themselves. Thanks all

  6. Diane Czarkowski on

    I’ve been a cannabis business owner since 2009 and never encouraged my employees to use any altering substance while at work. Those who had medical conditions that required that they use medical marijuana throughout the day were expected to be able to perform their duties without impairment. This article wrongly states that companies accepted and encouraged use. This is absolutely false. While I appreciate OpenVape making a statement of their policies, it makes the industry seem like businesses run with impaired individuals – not a stereotype with which I want to be associated.

    • chrisw on

      Thanks for the comments Diane. You and other business owners who have taken this approach for years should be applauded. And there are a growing number of you out there, thankfully. We, like you, have been in this industry for a while now, and despite your comments we have come across many cannabis businesses in different areas of the country that tolerate cannabis use by employees on the job, especially back in 2011 and 2012. Perhaps not in Boulder, where you are located. But this was definitely the case in a lot of markets (including Denver several years ago). Not everyone out there is as upstanding as you are in this area, unfortunately.

      The point of this article is to say that things are changing quickly, and that’s exactly what the industry needs at this point.

  7. JoshyBalls on

    I also agree with Dianne, but chrisw missed the point, deeply. The point is you are providing a stereotype which fuels corporate pigs and their totalitarian rule! just to fit in with corporate America. My problem is the way O.penVape has publicly discriminated against all the good companies who built this movement.

    So what, there is only one corporate model? Well then in my company, you can’t eat cheese because “it makes you” fat and lazy. (As if dude, I love cheese!) however if you want to be a great Olympian like Michael Phelps, then put down the cheese, pick up your vape and get your ass to work! Nothing comes easy, don’t beg anybody for their business. Rather, be yourself and leave an impression that is all yours. Cheese can’t choose, only humans have such free will to choose. Don’t hate.

    Cannabis has suffered 77 years of prohibition. I’m afraid if you don’t see the lies then it’s not worth it to legalize. I’m sure if Colorado f~~~s this up it will end worse than it’s ever been; for everybody. In a sense you have my freedom in your hands. Please, handle with care.

  8. JoshyBalls on

    This is a long reference for a forum. But this is one of my favorite scholarly articles on the experience of psychotropic effects and professionalism. Because I will not give in to the life of non-party. Something which you must fight for your rights:

    Thus it is most common to find the action of psychedelics called “toxic” (i.e., poisonous), and the sensory and emotional changes induced referred to as “distortions,” “delusive mechanisms,” “dissociations,” and “regressions,” or as “loss of ego structure” and “abnormal perception of body image.” This is the language of pathology. Used without explicit qualification, it implies that a consciousness so changed is sick. Likewise, when—in the context of a scientific article—the writer reports, “Subjects experienced religious exaltation, and some described sensations of being one with God,” and leaves it at that, the implication is plainly that they went crazy. For in our own culture, to feel that you are God is insanity almost by definition. But, in Hindu culture, when someone says, “I have just found out that I am God,” they say, “Congratulations! You at last got the point.” Obviously, the word “God” does not mean the same thing in both cultures. Yet psychiatrists toss off such utterly damning remarks without scruple, and feel free to use their diagnostic jargon of mental pathology for states of consciousness which many of them have never even bothered to experience. For they expect to get accurate information about these states from subjects untrained in scientific description, fearing that if they themselves entered into any new mode of consciousness it would impair their scientific objectivity. This is pure scholasticism, as when the theologians said to Galileo, “We will not look through your telescope because we already know how the universe is ordered. If your telescope were to show us anything different, it would be an instrument of the devil.” Similarly, so many practitioners of the inexact sciences (e.g., psychology, anthropology, sociology) let it be known most clearly that they already know what reality is, and therefore what sanity is. For these poor drudges reality is the world of non-party…”
    Allan Watts

  9. Sicmarc on

    I disagree with Diane’s opinion that a person who has consumed cannabis is “impaired”. The many world-class-athletes, musical artists, actors who consume cannabis regularly are living proof of this fact.I can personally attest to witnessing many successful Doctor’s, Lawyers and business owners I have known for decades who consume on a daily basis. A thinking person has to look no further than Micheal Phelps, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, Steve Jobs or Barack Obama to draw this logical conclusion rather than perpetrating and parroting propaganda that results in the further discrimination against cannabis consumers especially while profiting off the very same substance they are taking a stand against. In my opinion, the very height of hypocrisy as if the herb really did have the effect of “impairing” people? How could they expect the general public to support expansion of consumers legal access to such a bad thing? It is past time to put to bed unfounded fears that have no basis in reality and only exist in the minds of people who are gullible enough to buy into the theme of decades of hysterical anti-cannabis-nonsense.

  10. Diane Czarkowski on

    Sicmarc – I never said that everyone who consumes cannabis is impaired. I wholly support cannabis users being able to use cannabis so long as they can still do their jobs at work. We apply the same policy to any substance, whether it be cannabis or a pharmaceutical drug. I’m sure that many of my employees as well as myself, personally are able to work every day while using cannabis and are able to do so without being impaired. We’re on the same side, dude!

  11. Sicmarc on

    Glad to read it Diane, perhaps if you had responded to this ”
    April 20th, 2014 at 12:36 am
    Thanks for the comments Diane. You and other business owners who have taken this approach for years should be applauded. And there are a growing number of you out there, thankfully. We, like you, have been in this industry for a while now, and despite your comments we have come across many cannabis businesses in different areas of the country that tolerate cannabis use by employees on the job, especially back in 2011 and 2012.” ? Your policy and real opinion would not have been misinterpreted by me. As an employer myself, I am MUCH more concerned about Employees showing up for work hung-over from alcohol the night before than them having “Safety-Meetings” ; ) with cannabis at work.

  12. JoshyBalls on

    I commented on that Sicmarc. But I assume chrisw, the author Chris Walsh and the forum administrator are one in the same. Because my defense of Diane’s true positive attitude was quickly removed.

  13. Sicmarc on

    Josh, I saw your comment in my E-mail and yes, it HAS been deleted from the comments on here. On behalf of myself and my fellow subscribers, I would like an explanation. If? We do not get one from the forum administrator? I would suggest we all end our subscriptions to MMJ Business daily and stop wasting our time on a site that requires it’s Members to be Bobble-heads under the threat of being censored. I mean what kind of person does not actively support free-speech? NOT the kind I want to spend valuable time interacting with.

    • chrisw on

      We have had some issues in recent weeks with our back-end systems, including those tied to our comments section. We have gone back through and ensured all comments we received on this topic that meet our guidelines have been published on the site. You can see our guidelines here: http://mmjbusinessdaily.com/editorial-info/#L9

      We encourage debate, and we understand there are a variety of opinions out there, especially about sensitive issues such as whether employees should be allowed to consume while on the job. Also, if you submit a comment and it does not appear on the site, you are welcome to email us so we can look into it: http://mmjbusinessdaily.com/contact-us/

      What you see as censorship could in fact simply be a technical glitch or oversight.

  14. JoshyBalls on

    Yes chrisw, this was no glitch. I was raised in the USA and live in Canada now. I know the difference between debate and dissent. Canada and China might be the only country’s who have debates but do not allow dissent. I found it very disrespectful that you deflect Diane’s purpose to your own and cut me out. It’s quite obvious to me you discourage dissent.

    But let’s not get off topic. Did anybody read the Q&A with Christopher Taylor. I understand this would put pressure on companies such as O.penVape to act grown up and to fit in with the grownups. But prohibition is no small thing. It has been 75 years since a person could speak the truth on pot. It will surely take another 75 to recover. Our schools, corporate offices, courtrooms, hospitals and our economy will not heal quickly. The removal of prohibition should be slow and genuine, regardless of profit margins and greedy investors. This is our time to shine. SWED

  15. Sicmarc on

    Well, I guess we all know now that Josh was correct when he made the call ” But I assume chrisw, the author Chris Walsh and the forum administrator are one in the same.” And then we are told that somehow, some way his comment dissipated into a black hole rather than a truthful admission of censorship and a promise to end such un-American behavior? I don’t know about anyone else, but my opinion of MMJ Daily’s journalist ethics is very low.

  16. JoshyBalls on

    Sicmarc, I am never concerned with the integrity of media nor politicians. As Nancy Grace demonstrated on twitter with Seth Rogan, she is a media outlet, that is all. I only focus my concerns on their motive. Which incidentally is my bone to pick with O.penVape. I don’t care what your corporate office decides is best for operations, but this was a blatant media stunt that undercuts the whole movement in Colorado.

    So far Colorado has been a beacon of both political progress and personal freedom. Inspired by Colorado I pass the torch to Uruguay where I have been astounded of late at the great progress of a nation without prohibition. Uruguay is the perfect example of the purpose behind a legitimate cannabis industry and symbol of necessary regulation changes.


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