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NASA Had To Pay $5 Million In Taxpayer Money For SpaceX Employee Training After Elon Musk Smoked Weed On Joe Rogan's Podcast

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While the use of cannabis is legal in the state of California, it is still illegal on a federal level.

Thus, the CEO of a company that contracts with NASA, a federal entity, smoking it on camera during a podcast could cause a bit of a problem.


Last year, Elon Musk famously partook while appearing on Joe Rogan's podcast. This caused some online tumult, but mixed publicity was the least of the trouble the incident brought about.

Because Musk's company, SpaceX, is a federal contractor and works closely with NASA, the organization agreed to pay $5 million to train SpaceX employees on compliance with regulations which prohibit illegal drug use by federal contractors. Part of this training was conducting a "workplace culture" review of the company to ensure that employees understood and complied with these regulations.

When the review was initially announced, NASA spokesperson Bob Jacobs told The Washington Post that they wanted to:

"ensure the companies are meeting NASA's requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment."

SpaceX reacted to news of the impending review by stating:

"Our comprehensive drug-free workforce and workplace programs exceed all applicable contractual requirements."

Boeing, SpaceX's main competitor and another major NASA contractor, was also required to conduct the same review. However, unlike with SpaceX, Boeing is not receiving any extra funding for this requirement.

Jim Bridenstine, a NASA administrator, said of the organization's motives for the reviews:

"If I see something that's inappropriate, the key concern to me is what is the culture that led to that inappropriateness and is NASA involved in that."
"As an agency we're not just leading ourselves but our contractors, as well. We need to show the American public that when we put an astronaut on a rocket, they'll be safe."

Joshua Finch, a NASA spokesperson, gave a tiny bit more information about the decision not to offer Boeing any extra funds for conducting the review:

"After discussions with Boeing…we decided we wouldn't pursue a contract modification to carry out the assessment that's underway."

There doesn't seem to be any precedent for NASA to pay a contractor additional funds for complying with a review such as this.

Social media opinions of the review, and NASA's paying for it, we're mixed.

Some criticized Musk and questioned why taxpayers are paying for his employees to be trained.

Others pointed out that Boeing's contract with NASA is still over $1 billion higher, even factoring in the $5 Million given to SpaceX in this instance.

Some were critical of NASA's decision to require the extra training in the first place, saying that adults should be sufficiently responsible to make sure that substance use does not negatively affect their job duties.

Given that there is no apparent precedent for NASA paying a contractor extra money for conducting training mandated by a contract, it does seem odd they chose to do so in this case.

Trainings and individual meetings with staff members will reportedly ensure that all are aware of, and following, federal guidelines regarding federally illegal drug use.

Only time will tell whether this approach is effective in increasing employee awareness of regulations and decreasing any employee drug use.

The book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific is available here.

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