Can You Work Better While High?
A newfound appreciation for toking up on the job
Besides their outsized reputations in the annals of literature, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baudelaire, and Honoré de Balzac had something else in common: their interest in weed. They were all members of the Club des Hashischins — the “Hash Club” — formed in the 19th century as a way to provide opportunities for these towering figures and other celebrated creatives to explore the benefits of writing while high.
Shocked? Probably not. It’s a long-held assumption that many artistic types throughout history have at least experimented with substances. Step outside the world of the highly creative, though, and the picture changes: Being high in the workplace is generally not considered responsible or productive.
Yet data suggests that more people are using cannabis on the job. In 2018 nearly 3% of drug tests among workers and job applicants proved positive for marijuana, a 16% jump from 2014, according to a study of more than 10 million drug tests by lab testing firm Quest Diagnostics.
As marijuana laws and attitudes continue to evolve toward tolerance, could this change?
There’s reason to believe mixing pot and work may not be as problematic as once thought. Some scientists, physicians, and other experts are going as far as to suggest that for some people, pot can even be a tool for increasing productivity. “It depends on the individual and the job,” says Michael Tagen, a PhD pharmacology researcher who consults pharmaceutical companies about marijuana neuroscience. “But there are tantalizing hints from studies, and lots of anecdotal evidence, that it can help some people.”
There are obvious reasons why being high at work can be a problem. Pot is still illegal in 13 states, even for medical purposes, and there are tight restrictions around possession and consumption everywhere else. It’s a firing offense at many, if not most, organizations, and well over half of all companies drug test, according to a study by the National Safety Council.
What’s more, jobs often entail responsibilities that don’t safely allow for altered consciousness. Few people would want their pilot or Uber driver to be high. Among employees of all types, those…