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I’m interviewing for a position in Colorado that has a startup feel. Although marijuana is recreationally legal, how do you go about asking them about their policy regarding it?

Clearly, you can see my my dilemma. I don’t want to come off as a putz that just wants to come to Colorado to smoke reefer and happened to settle with their company. I’m a professional with quite a few years of experience in the technology field.

I do, however, want to enjoy my free time however I choose.

How do I go about it (if at all) finding out the company’s stance on this? Or will it just “come up” further down the interview process?

  • 8
    Don't get high or drunk at work. Bad idea. – Paul Manta Jul 13 '14 at 13:00
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    Cmon you already know that's a really stupid question to ask a company you want to work for. – TheMathemagician Jul 15 '14 at 18:03
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    Do the companies in your region have any legal claim to regulate anything that you do in your free (unpaid) time? – user1023 Jul 28 '14 at 7:18
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    Yes. I am a contractor to the Federal (US) government. Using any mind altering drugs without prescription, at any time including my own, could at the least result in my termination and at the most, jail time. – CGCampbell Jul 28 '14 at 12:25
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    @Lukasz Actually, they do. Colorado is not a right-to -work state. However, if they found out he was smoking marijuana they could fire him. Regardless of what Colorado says, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. – Keltari Aug 15 '14 at 3:50
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I would not mention marijuana specifically at all during any interview. When you are talking about the benefits and policies of the organization, you can safely ask about the drug policy. Asking about company policies is a relatively normal part of an interview. Let them describe the policy.

Chances are extremely good that when discussing the company's policy in regards to drugs and drugs use that THEY will bring up Marijuana specifically, simply because it is one of the main topics in Colorado these days.

By doing it this way you shield yourself from any negative (read stoner) connotations which could be (would be by some) assumed by your interviewer.

In my opinion, if you bring up marijuana use yourself, that would be an immediate negative you'll have to try to overcome.

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    Thanks for the input. I was thinking about the ol' "what's your drug policy?" question, but can't quite come up with a good place to ask about it. I see it going down like this: "So what would I be doing? Ahh I see. What hours? Great! What's the culture like there? I think I’d fit in well. Technical growth? I’m happy to hear that. Finally, errr, How about your drug policy?" How would you personally drop that into the conversation without sounding like you have an ulterior motive? – Sid Jul 13 '14 at 21:34
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    When you are talking company oriented issues, such as health benefits, you can (should) also talk about various policies. "What is your pay policy? (overtime, core hours) What is your policy on time off? (Holidays, personal time, etc) What is your promotion policy? Bonuses, pay increase periodicity? Drug use? have a series of questions ready for the interview. (I should point out that I've worked in the corporate contract world, and not for small private firms. My interviews have always been with an HR dept) – CGCampbell Jul 13 '14 at 21:38
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    Not at all. In my line of work, random drug testing is required, and I always ask what the schedule is. Please note, I do not, nor have I ever used mind altering drugs during my working history, of any kind. While I am asking about the various policies of a potential company, I include asking if I will need to be drug screened during application (if not already told); I ask about random testing and if it is used, and if so, how, as this is a privacy issue. You can always word things in a way as to be honest and forthcoming, without negativity. – CGCampbell Jul 14 '14 at 18:22
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    In fact, in Colorado, I firmly believe it would be emminently easier to ask about drug use, because of the new marijuana laws. For instance: "I'm very concerned about the possiblity of there being issues with coworkers coming to work high after the recent legislation. I do not wish to work with drunk/drugged coworkers. What is the Company policy about drug use?" Slant your need for knowledge in a way that ensures they believe they are helping you avoid what you may want. – CGCampbell Jul 14 '14 at 18:28
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    @CGCampbell Your 'talk' worked like a charm. I simply asked what their policy on drug use was. And they were very forthcoming with it. They simply didn't have a policy and didn't care, so long as I remained a productive employee, they didn't have a policy governing what I do in my off time. – Sid Jul 19 '14 at 17:57
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What do you expect the companies stance on it to be? If it's legal, they can hardly tell you to not take it in your free time. The implied drug policy for workplaces is don't take any at work or appear under the influence of any at work. That goes for any drug, even perfectly legal ones like alcohol.

So whatever answer you get, asking this question will probably reflect badly on you. Were you fine with the implied policy of "don't do any on company time", you would not be asking. So as an employer, I would have to assume you are asking permission to take drugs at work.

Edit:

After reading the link, it seems you left out a few details in your description of it being "legal". It seems the use is only partly legal in Colorado. State laws allow it, federal laws do not. Strictly speaking, you are still breaking federal law. The good point is, as it obviously was debated recently, you can ask for their opinion on it quite openly. I would not, however, ask for recreational use. Ask for medical use first and hope their whole policy will be explained:

"I recently read an article where someone was fired for medical use of marijuana. In case of medical problems, I trust my doctor to prescribe the drugs that help me best, but I don't want to get into trouble with the company either. What's your policy here?"

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    Actually, CO companies CAN prohibit employees from imbibing during their free time. That is a point that was stressed strongly during the campaign for the Amendment in the CO State Constitution that legalized recreational cannabis use, and that position has recently been upheld in Apellate Court: gordonrees.com/publications/2013/… – Wesley Long Jul 13 '14 at 1:35
  • Companies can certainly prohibit employees from utilizing marijuana off hours. That's my dilemma. Most of the time, it's the insurance companies that have these requirements. I just don't know how to go about asking what their stance on it is. – Sid Jul 13 '14 at 7:34
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    You could also ask to see the employee handbook/written policy. Typically they'll state in there any drug policies they have, and this could help keep it discrete. (if you ask about the stance on marijuana, then it will be assumed you partake in it) – RualStorge Jul 14 '14 at 17:36
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I cannot think of any reasonable way to ask this during the job interview process without it looking bad.

I would suggest taking a back channel approach instead. Can you find a friend of a friend who does or has very recently worked for the company via Linked In or other means, and have your friend ask their friend for you? Or possibly use Google or Glassdoor to search the company's name + marijuana policy? If it's a very young company you might not find anything that way, but hopefully you can just find someone who knows someone...

If you must ask in the interview, you could try something along the lines of "does the company have any policies restricting what employees do during their non-working hours?" I think they will probably still guess what you're getting at, but it's a bit more neutral.

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    "does the company have any policies restricting what employees do during their non-working hours?" seems to be the best question, because the other side must explicitely mention any extra restriction on employees private life. It's, however, astonishing to me, that in US the company can regulate the private life of their employees, even in the time they don't pay for. Quite shocking, from European perspective. – user1023 Jul 28 '14 at 7:17
  • This is a good phrasing, because the question could just as easily apply to e.g. a social media policy. Many companies have (entirely reasonable) expectations that employees will not post on Facebook about a company project that hasn't yet been publicly announced, for example. – Dan Henderson Aug 4 '15 at 22:00
4

Usually I take the "ask everything so people can get to understand themselves" approach, but this is one of the times I won't.

You said in a comment

It's pretty important to me, but I won't risk not feeding my family so I can get high. I'll put it his way; if another opportunity came up that did promote that policy, I would certainly take it

So, as far as you do not have other offers, you are willing to submit to the company policies (whatever they are). So, it really does not matter to you for accept their offer, so you really do not need to ask (be sure to check with HR after you are hired, though).

In the other point, if the company (or personally the interviewers) have extreme prejudice against marijuana smoking, asking this question will signal you as a marijuana consumer, which will hurt your prospects. Even if you are willing to leave it for the sake of getting the job, some "collateral damage" will probably stay.

So:

  • Advantages of asking beforehand: None.
  • Risks of asking beforehand: Unknown, possibly some.

Just don't ask anything and check with HR if you are hired. If their policy is restrictive and you get another job interview, then asking may lead to some advantages to you.

2

How do I go about it (if at all) finding out the company’s stance on this? Or will it just “come up” further down the interview process?

During the interviews, you must determine all the important aspects of the job in order to make the decision that is best for you.

If using marijuana is important enough to you, then you must determine if that will be a problem before accepting a job offer.

In light of the new laws, I suspect any Colorado company that now had a policy prohibiting marijuana use would make that clear to all candidates up front. Companies don't want confusion during the hiring process. But perhaps that isn't always happening.

When I interview at a company, I try to talk with my potential manager, my potential peers, and all of the people who will be working for me, as much as possible. Doing this gives me a wider source of opinions about the company, the culture etc.

In your case, if the issue isn't freely offered by HR or your potential manager, you may wish to ask a peer or someone who would work for you.

The worst outcome would be to ask nothing, then find out the policies don't meet with your personal needs after starting your job.

0

Simple: don't ask don't tell.

I've worked in a lot of "buttoned up" places (a federal agency, a major newspaper, a premium retailer).

The only place that that officially drug tested was the federal agency. Most places honestly don't give a shit if you do it or not. In the federal agency, after the initial drug test, they NEVER issued another one. Many of my coworkers smoked up.

My advice is, if they don't drug screen you at the beginning, then it's 99% safe to smoke. Just don't mention you smoke during interview. If it comes up later organically (another coworker brings it up) awesome!

If they drug test, wait a little, get to know your coworkers, find somebody you trust/hangout out with, and ask them. They won't rat on you (except in a very very rare case that they're a psychopath after your job. Even then it's hearsay and they look bad for "tattling") Or let it come up organically (they bring it up). This article explains pretty well how (most) employers feel about MJ use FBI's "Stance"

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If you are applying for a position that you know has other candidates, then the safest way is to get a friend to pretend to be a potential candidate and have him contact human resources on speakerphone (from his own phone).

That way, you get all the details, with none of the drawbacks!

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