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I'm a developer, and I have an app, but its main focus is weed. Marijuana is illegal in my state (NY, U.S.) The app does nothing illegal, it's closer to a database app, but the database centers around marijuana.

Is there any problem putting something like this on my resume or in my portfolio? If the work is good, will the content have a negative effect on employers? Can employers reject me from a job based on a project like this?

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    Can you change the app to perform all the same functions, but with a "subject" that's less controversial? – alroc May 24 '17 at 3:12
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    By not changing the subject your limiting yourself to people who don't object to drug use. I assume your putting this application on your resume to highlight your skills – Donald May 24 '17 at 3:17
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    Could you duplicate this app and change the content to something other than marijuana? If it's your skills you want to display then display them with a non-controversial topic attached. PS, I'm not a coder so if my suggestion is completely moronic keep that in mind. – Andieisme May 24 '17 at 3:45
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    How does that work? Marijuana is illegal, but building an app or whatever centered around marijuana is not illegal? – Masked Man May 24 '17 at 4:56
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    @MaskedMan It could be a database of the different sorts of marijuana, of the crime reports around marijuana, medicinal statistics or whatever. The app could then provide a nice-to-use interface to access this data. Nothing illegal about it. – Sebastian Proske May 24 '17 at 8:32
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Consider what this app says about you.

Good:

  • Can develop apps
  • Has database skills
  • Can ship a software product

Bad:

  • Is very likely a recreational drug user, so might come to work stoned
  • If not a recreational drug user, at least very openly pro-legalization, which might not fit into our company culture
  • Might be involved in illegal activity and get arrested the moment we need them most
  • Might turn into a PR nightmare when in a public-facing role

Note that all of the negative points can be avoided by simply reskinning your app to be a database about something else.

If you created something which centers around a subject which is not accepted by mainstream society, either for personal satisfaction or to fulfill the needs of a niche subculture, you certainly don't want it associated with your professional identity. So release it under a pseudonym and follow rules 1 and 2 of the fight club while not acting under that pseudonym.

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    I understand your point but the "bad" list seems, to me, a really exaggerated reaction to such a small thing. Out of curiosity, this answer is very particular to the specific state of the OP, right? This would probably not be valid throughout the US, I assume? – armatita May 24 '17 at 9:37
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    “Is very likely a recreational drug user, so might come to work drunk.” If someone had worked on, say, a wine-reviewing app, would you worry that they’d come to work drunk? Certainly some people who buy into negative stereotypes might leap to this sort of assumption, but I think this and some of the rest of your “bad” list is significantly exaggerating the concerns a typical interviewer/employer would have, in most industries in the US. – PLL May 24 '17 at 11:07
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    @PLL the fact that this society treats alcohol users much different than marijuana users is sad and unfair, but that doesn't change it. – Philipp May 24 '17 at 11:19
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    @PLL - I agree with Philipp. If you go to many companies, they warn you about personal, private, off-work behavior and impressions based on the whims and moral judgement of higher ups. Many want you to hand over social network passwords so they can snoop there for something they might not like or agree with. In a perfect world, you'd be right. This isn't about what's right, this is about work-world practicality and realities. – PoloHoleSet May 24 '17 at 17:45
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Let's cut to the chase

Can employers reject me from a job based on a project like this?

Yes they can. Providing database services for marijuana users is not a protected category, and if employers want to reject you based on that information then can without legal problems.

Whether they will or not is something we can't answer. A substantial number of people are strongly opposed to marijuana and would not want to be associated with it. Some fraction of them might reject you just on the association. Some will suspect that you are an illegal marijuana user, or an addict. Recruiters are generally conservative, in that the problems caused by having an employee who turns out to be a 'pothead' and who gets himself arrested are likely more significant than the benefits of any particular employee.

Against that there may be some that see your app and/or marijuana use in a positive light. It's really your judgement as to whether the former are likely to outnumber the latter in places you will be applying to. In a country with the largest number of people incarcerated for drug offences in the world my bet would be that they do.

Of course you may decide that the sort of people who would object to your work are not the ones you want to work for. That is entirely up to you.

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    Seems incomplete: "my bet would be that they, ..." – Brandin May 24 '17 at 6:14
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    I would consider it to be in the same league as "I manage the books for an alcohol distribution outfit" in Prohibition America when going for an accountancy job. – SGR May 24 '17 at 9:10
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    Any dev worth hiring will fail a drug test, and an employer who can't see past their own prejudice to hire solid talent won't develop an employee's resume. – sleddog May 24 '17 at 18:09
  • For me, I think @SGR summed it up beautifullyd! The prohibition analogy really brings the point home. It's not a good idea. It seems that one's choices are to choose that "fringe" niche and commit to it for the rest of the career, to work in fringe with a pseudonym, or to convert the app "skinning" it to be for something else, much like if you were making an minimum verifiable code sample to post on Stack Overflow. – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 May 7 '18 at 12:57
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This is a very hard question, since it depends so much on the interviewer/recruiter. But I think you should look at it like this.

You've made an app for a specific market - regardless of your own opinion of the subject. That market is illegal, but are moving towards being legal. Marijuana is a sensible topic since some people have a very colored view on people who consume/sell/buy or even talk about marijuana.

You might come in a situation where your recruiter doesn't support that you've made an app for this market, but you might also come across another recruiter who is a supporter - it can go either way.

So here is what I feel is the right thing to do:

Threat this in a very professional matter, acknowledge that there is a medical market as well as an legal market other places in the world, and that you simple made an app for this market. I Assume that this app might be available in various app markets, is that true? If so, I don't recommend lying about it, by re-skinning the app, since it might come back to you in the future.

Full disclosure can help you find a place to work, who acknowledge the way you think, and who you are. Which might be important to you, or might not. But if you tell this doing the interview, you don't have to worry about it afterwards, which you might do, if the app can be traced back to you somehow. Either way, I feel that you should try to sell yourself for who you are, and the quality you posses in an interview.

So my advice is this:

Put it on your portfolio, but threat it in a professional matter. Talk numbers in terms of amounts of downloads, daily users and so on.

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