Yesterday was a very hard day for me as a blogger/activist/freedom fighter/lover of all things marijuana. A press release from O.penVape, a vaporizer pen company based out of Colorado, was brought to the attention of the marijuana reform community. The press release highlights the fact that O.penVape proudly drug tests its employees. It's worth noting that the employee drug testing policy excludes marijuana. However, it's a drug testing policy nonetheless.
As veteran reformers know, and long time Weed Blog fans know, I have never supported drug testing in the workplace. Not for marijuana obviously, but also not for anything else. As a comprehensive ACLU study shows, workplace drug testing doesn't work. It's an invasion of privacy, and it's not effective. This is something that reformers have pointed out for a long, long time.
O.penVape's press release put me in a position I never thought I'd be in. Prior to yesterday, I honestly felt that I was their biggest fan. No one was more disappointed to see that press release than me in my opinion. I loved their vape pen that I got as a gift from a friend. I tweeted about how much I loved it, I posted about how much I loved it on my Facebook page, and in numerous articles. However, as much as I loved my pen, it doesn't outweigh my love for freedom, and definitely doesn't outweigh my disdain for the war on drugs as a whole.
The reaction to O.penVape's drug testing press release was one of the largest I've ever seen in the marijuana world, which is saying a lot. Members of almost every major reform organization, members of the marijuana media, and consumers themselves started tweeting and posting on Facebook calling for a boycott of O.penVape products. As is always the case on a weekday during business hours, I was stuck in my cubicle killing time on Twitter and Facebook, and was watching all of this unfold.
Russ Belville, a long time valued contributor to The Weed Blog, posted an article on The Weed Blog calling for the boycott of O.penVape products unless they changed their policy. I posted a link on my personal Facebook in support of the article, which was then spread far and wide as it usually does. After a brief time, I took the post down. Not because I agree with workplace drug testing (I obviously don't), but because I have two business partners at The Weed Blog who hadn't told me their official opinion yet, and I didn't want my official opinion to be construed as being their opinion. They are both out of town (and we don't live near each other even if they were home), and while I feel they would agree that drug testing is bad, I'll wait for them to express their own opinions. I stand by my beliefs, but again, these are my beliefs, not necessarily theirs.
I personally feel that O.penVape is in a vulnerable position. To be clear, I've never talked to anyone from O.penVape, other than on Twitter. I've never been on a phone call with them, I've never been in a meeting with them, I've never even e-mailed back and forth with them. Everything that I know about their drug testing policy I learned from their press release, and the social media debate that followed. I have questions that I'd like to ask the company.
For starters, what is the objective of this drug testing policy? It's my understanding that it's to create a safe work environment. If so, my next question is 'has there been a problem with impairment at the company that has led to safety issues?' If yes, then by all means lets try to brainstorm the best way(s) to increase worker safety at O.penVape. But if not, then I'm finding it hard to wrap my head around the need to drug test employees. I know the company works a lot with volatile chemicals, is the drug testing required by law because of this? Or is this something that the company is doing on it's own free will in an attempt to be proactive? Because if it's the latter, numerous studies show that workplace drug testing doesn't provide even close to enough benefits to outweigh such an invasion of privacy.
As one member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition pointed out, even police departments don't drug test their employees, because taking action after on-the-job impairment is suspected is a much better policy. Fighting for marijuana reform isn't just about marijuana - it's about freedom, as Russ Belville pointed out on his show. People should be hired because of their skills and kept as an employee because of their work performance, not because of the purity of their urine/saliva/hair. This is true anywhere, but it's especially true in the marijuana industry.
This O.penVape controversy highlights the current clash between the desires of corporate marijuana, and the desires of the marijuana reform community that made the industry possible. How successful a boycott on O.penVape will be is yet to be determined; only time will tell. However, I think it's a virtual guarantee that if O.penVape doesn't change their policy, calls for a boycott will continue to grow, which can't be good for their bottom line. After all, it's not like there is just one or two people upset about this. Almost every prominent activist I have ever worked with is supporting this boycott.
I'm extremely hopeful that O.penVape changes their policy. It would change this from a PR nightmare into a great opportunity, as everyone that currently opposes them would likely applaud their change of direction and start promoting their products. I know I would. If O.penVape sticks to their policy, I just don't see how this would work out for them. Yes, they would still sell some products. But they will have to deal with this lingering issue forever, because activists are not going to give up. Marijuana reform victories are proof of that.
On my Facebook I suggested that The Weed Blog would not be working with O.penVape, which was not entirely accurate. Again, those were my views, not those of my business partners. I'd imagine they agree with me, but I will let them speak for themselves. I stand by my personal statement that I won't accept money from companies that drug test, and are indirectly supporting the drug war. This isn't about whether or not marijuana is good and other drugs are bad. Drug testing companies don't make that distinction. Dollars that are given to drug testing companies become dollars that are used to fight marijuana reform, which history has clearly shown. I'm not OK with that, and O.penVape shouldn't be either if they truly love marijuana.
I am extending an offer to O.penVape to have a constructive conversation about workplace drug testing. No name calling, no ad hominem attacks. I want them to provide their side of the story, and offer up facts and statistics to back up their policies. The reform/consumer side can do the same, and I'm hopeful that something good comes out of it. I'm hopeful that it results in O.penVape changing their policy. I leave open the chance that O.penVape presents compelling arguments that keeps their policy in place, while at the same time satisfying the questions/concerns of the reform community. However, I just don't see how that can happen for the reasons previously mentioned. I would also like to invite Russ Belville and Tom Angell to participate in the discussion, as well as other high profile activists and members of the marijuana business community. Members from the business community have expressed support for O.penVape to me in private, and I'm curious if they would go on the record with that support for the public to see.
The logistics of having this conversation are yet to be determined. It's something that has to be better than Facebook wall posts and character-limited tweets. I don't know everyone else's schedules, but mine is usually pretty harsh. I'm locked into a cubicle for most of every weekday, and at night and on weekends I have to balance family time, blogging, activism, and sanity, which I assure you, is no easy task! If you feel strongly about this (for or against), and you're an activist, consumer, or marijuana business owner, please send me a direct message on Twitter and we will go from there. Be advised that I don't check my Weed Blog e-mail that often for various reasons, nor do I have the time to check every Facebook message that is sent to me. Send me a direct message on Twitter - it's the best way to get a hold of me right now (@thatjohnnygreen).
I truly hope this matter gets resolved for all sides. This Saturday should involve doing yardwork, basking in the glory that is the Portland Trailblazers, and participating in the Global Marijuana March, not this madness! But it's very important that we get this worked out, for better or worse. I look forward to reading the comments, talking to people that are fired up about this, and talking to O.penVape, if they are willing. I reserve the right to treat this article as a living document, and updating it as needed. It's possible that the conversation I'm calling for happens on this article, or a series of articles, or in some other forum. Stay tuned!