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Totally Unchill NASA Orders SpaceX Safety Probe Because Elon Musk Legally Smoked Weed

That seems like a bit of an overreaction.

Youtube Screenshot via Lieutenants LoftYoutube Screenshot via Lieutenants LoftTwo-and-a-half months ago, the billionaire industrialist who Reason's Zuri Davis accurately described as a "real-life Tony Stark figure" smoked a little weed during an appearance on comedian Joe Rogan's podcast.

There really wasn't a whole lot to say about this outrageous incident. Musk took a puff of the joint, exhaled, then picked up a glass of whiskey and pointed out that alcohol is a drug that's "been grandfathered in." The CEO of like Tesla and SpaceX wasn't even breaking the law. As Space.com noted at the time, Rogan tapes his podcast in California, where marijuana is legal for recreational use.

Apparently, Musk's behavior "rankled" some high-level officials at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The Washington Post reported yesterday, citing three officials. The paper said his actions "prompted the agency to take a close look at the culture of" two companies it contracts with: Musk's SpaceX, as well as Boeing.

That "closer look" will take the form of a safety probe of both companies, which plan to help NASA fly astronauts to space starting next year. Unsurprisingly, the space agency wouldn't exactly confirm that Musk's behavior prompted the probe. But NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine did seem to hint at it. "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," he told the Post. "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."

NASA's "requirements for workplace safety," of course, include "adherence to a drug-free environment," agency spokesperson Ben Jacobs told the Post. And SpaceX insists that its "comprehensive drug-free workforce and workplace programs exceed all applicable contractual requirements," according to a statement from the company.

News of the safety review prompted an incredulous response on Twitter from Rogan:

It doesn't appear as though Musk has responded to the report, though Rogan's reaction seems about right. There's no evidence to suggest that Musk or any of his SpaceX employees go to work high. Plus, Musk was merely lighting up (and legally doing so) on his own time.

Ultimately, the only thing Musk did wrong was smoke and drink on camera, which meant millions of people would see him do it. Had he done the same in private (maybe he does, who knows?), NASA probably wouldn't have found out or cared.

Musk's behavior might be a bit unconventional, but there's really no reason to believe that he oversees a dangerous workplace. Instead of probing his company, NASA should chill out. Here's a hint: Some weed might do the trick.

Photo Credit: Youtube Screenshot via Lieutenants Loft

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    IF WE CAN'T SMOKE SPACE MARIJUANA THEN NO ONE CAN SMOKE SPACE MARIJUANA.

  • Wizard4169||

    Moonijuana grows in the shape of a tire.

  • Detroit Linguist||

    Wayne State University, like all universities that accept federal funds (which is virtually all of them) sent out a message from Legal stating that it would still be against university rules to have pot on campus, because it's against federal law and the university is required to follow 'drug-free' rules. Since chief legal counsel is a friend, and I know he thinks this is just plain stupid, it amused me. But I don't live on campus.

  • Detroit Linguist||

    Just a further comment. I'd be willing to bet that Hillsdale, the only university I know that accepts no federal funds, and consequently is immune to this rule, probably also prohibits pot, but for different reasons. Because DRUGS ARE BAD!!!! I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

  • ||

    Because DRUGS ARE BAD!!!! I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

    Depending on your opinions about a university's mission, at least some part of it is auspiciously to elevate cognitive functioning. In which case, yeah, some drugs like marijuana (and alcohol) are kinda inherently bad.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yes and no. Go to class high or try to study high, and you probably won't do as well as you could have otherwise. Take a few puffs at the end of the night after going to class and getting all your work done, and it probably won't do much if any harm.

  • ||

    Yes and yes.

    The cannabinoid receptors in the CNS are well mapped and studied at this point. There are certainly people it can help and people for whom cannabinoids more or less won't hurt, but the consistent and repeated use has pretty direct and clear effects from the molecular to the application level.

    You aren't shaving off IQ points with every puff, and I don't agree that even if it did make you retarded after the 3rd puff it should be illegal, but let's not pretend that cognitive impairment is kinda the point in using. Cannabinoids aside, you'd be hard pressed to find a study indicating that the rigorous practice of inhaling any combustion products is good for cognition in the short or long term.

    Again, I'm not saying it should be broadly banned, just that some of these institutions are, again auspiciously, religiously devoted to enhancing cognition. I don't have a problem with the Mormons thinking tea is an immoral hallucinogen as long as they aren't trying to ban it anywhere except the campuses and/or hotel chains that they own.

  • sarcasmic||

    I get you. Yeah, if someone wants to ban something as a condition of doing business or whatever, yeah. It is their right. I don't have to agree with their reasons.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Oh great! Now we have a denier in our midst pushing decriminalization of caffeine, the ASSASSIN OF YOUTH! What is the world coming to?

  • TuIpa||

    "The cannabinoid receptors in the CNS are well mapped and studied at this point"

    Lol no.

  • Muzzled Woodchipper||

    I found out in graduate school that there is some work you can't do without being high.

    There was no way I could sit for 14 or 16 hours straight writing a paper without being blazed.

  • ||

    There was no way I could sit for 14 or 16 hours straight writing a paper without being blazed.

    I tried to cache it in the context of "depending on your opinion of universities". There are plenty of us who might consider 14-16 hours of paper writing itself to be cognitively damaging. Depending on the subject.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    In which case, yeah, some drugs like marijuana (and alcohol) are kinda inherently bad.

    I don't know. I knew a guy in college who once showed up to his Aerodynamics II final with a 64oz Big Gulp cup filled with beer (you could smell it from across the room). As the professor was handing out the exam he stops at that guy, looks down and says "I should probably take that away, it might give you an unfair advantage," and continues on.

    Don't know what the guy got on his test, but anyone who'd taken a course on supersonic aerodynamics would probably agree that yes, getting drunk may give you an advantage.

  • Fancylad||

    Hi there little Astronauts (fuck you!)
    Today we're gonna to learn how to poison SpaceX
    But first, I'd like you to meet my friend Musk (Huh?)
    Say hi Musk! ("Hi Musk") Musk's 47 and lives in a rocket
    And he don't got a job, 'cause Musk went on air and smoked pot

    See astronauts, drugs are bad (come on)
    And if you don't believe me, ask NASA (ask him man)
    And if you don't believe him, ask Sessions (that's right)
    He'll tell you how he does 'em all the time (he will)
    So astronauts say no to drugs (that's right)
    So you don't act like everyone else does (uh-huh)
    Then there's really nothin' else to say (sing along)
    Drugs are just bad, okay?

  • Hank Phillips||

    What is it about languages that causes everyone else in my profession to parrot idiotic nonsense in support of the initiation of force?

  • No Longer Amused||

    I work in an FAA regulated business and just this week they fired a guy for smoking weed. Not that it affected his job at all, and it's fully legal in this state, but federal regs say, in no uncertain terms, no marijuana allowed.

  • sarcasmic||

    If you contract with the federal government then you must follow federal law, which includes no drugs.

    Musk didn't break state law, but he did violate federal policy.

    So the headline is misleading. State and federal are not the same thing. If you have a medical marijuana card you may not legally own firearms, because that's prohibited under federal law.

    Want to keep your lucrative federal contracts? Don't smoke weed on tv.

  • Marty Comanche||

    Yes, it is against federal law. Bridenstine is not calling for federal prosecution of Musk. He is wasting tax dollars hunting for evidence that Musk's single puff on a joint might jeopardize future launches. Is this a reasonable chain of reasoning? Since it isn't, I would not like my tax dollars wasted on this snipe hunt.

  • ||

    Unsurprisingly, the space agency wouldn't exactly confirm that Musk's behavior prompted the probe. But NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine did seem to hint at it. "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," he told the Post. "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."

    The hint must be really, really high pitched.

    I'm in favor of legal weed but Musk has done plenty of other shit that should cause contractors and investors doing business with him to take a second look at their due diligence.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    Yeah, you can't harsh Musk's mellow because he basically has no mellow to be harshed.

  • BYODB||


    I'm in favor of legal weed but Musk has done plenty of other shit that should cause contractors and investors doing business with him to take a second look at their due diligence.

    That's kind of my point of view as well. There are lots of reason's to look at Musk's company that don't include Musk being stoned in public. Although, yeah, Musk being stoned in public does sort of make you wonder about his personal stability and sanity. If I were a shareholder I'd be pretty furious with Musk for a lot of reasons, and this would indeed be one of them.

  • Fancylad||

    He was deliberately trying to lower Tesla's share price because he wanted to take Tesla private again. Nothing insane about that, just illegal.

  • DajjaI||

    Definitely don't want people doing mission critical work when high. Good for the feds to investigate this. Ultimately there must be guidelines for how to smoke pot responsibly. And for some people depending on their job, this may not be possible.

  • sarcasmic||

    Definitely don't want people doing mission critical work when high.

    Agreed.

    Good for the feds to investigate this.

    Mmmmmm' k?

    Ultimately there must be guidelines for how to smoke pot responsibly.

    Don't go to work high. That was easy.

    And for some people depending on their job, this may not be possible.

    Depending on the person, not the job. Some people can't smoke weed without smoking it all the time. Chronic, all or nothing. They need to quit the herb or find different work. Most other people can wait until the important stuff is done before getting high.

  • DajjaI||

    Some people can't smoke weed without smoking it all the time.

    True but you want to find out who these people are before they put the O-ring on backwards. Or better yet, just ban pot for these workers entirely, at least if they are getting paid by the feds.

  • sarcasmic||

    Can o-rings be put on backwards? They're kinda uniform in shape. Do they have a front or back?

    I don't smoke weed. At least not anymore. Don't like it like I used to. Turns my brain into mush. Can't communicate. Doubt I will every use it again. So my employer doesn't need to ban it.

    I guess that's what drug testing is all about. If you want to hire people who don't use drugs not because they're banned, but because they don't want to, then make them pee in a cup. Even then, it screens out responsible users who would never show up to work high.

  • rbike||

    The backing ring ( if it has one ) may be put on backwards. But no, they typically cannot be put on backwards. But there are plenty of other ways to screw an O-ring installation.

  • juris imprudent||

    The stone-cold sober NASA bosses were told by the engineers that the o-rings were at risk in cold weather. They made the call because there hadn't been a problem before. They flipped the protocol for political reasons. I suppose you could argue they were dope[s].

  • Alcibiades||

    Correct.
    They launched outside the "launch parameters" because no one group wanted to be the one that was responsible for causing the launch to be cancelled.

  • Wizard4169||

    And don't forget they were only using these boosters in the first place because they were made in an important congresscritter's district. Ah, the joys of political engineering.

  • Zeb||

    In my experience, the people who smoke weed all the time are either kind of sad, damaged people, or highly motivated, smart and hard working people. I know some very hard working and successful people who smoke all day. The effect varies so much with different people that I don't think you can make any generalization about it. Especially people who are regular users. Though I would agree that for most people "don't go to work high" is a good rule.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Ah! Pseudoscience passed along by a true mystical bigot.

  • Fancylad||

    Is it really that hard to detect sarcasm guys?

  • Alcibiades||

    How about calling for an investigation into how NASA has blown about $12 billion on the Space Launch System (SLS), a "one use and throw away" 1960's technology that's years behind schedule and that if it actually ever is brought to a state of readiness will be so expensive to use that only one launch per year will be possible.

    Meanwhile SpaceX developed (and tested successively) completely in-house a reusable launch platform for around $50 million.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    Shuttle launches cost around $1B each, averaged over the full program. That;s more than a Saturn V expendable launch, I bet.

    NASA has been incompetent since Apollo finished and the Air Force made them jealous with the relatively cheap MOL.

  • Alcibiades||

    The problem now is the "product" is no longer the end-point but rather bringing home the money to my state is the primary goal... and keeping it coming.

    Projected launch costs for the SLS are around a billion dollars per launch.
    Essentially that means around one launch per year is all NASA will be able to afford and it's a one use and throw away technology...pathetic.

    Luckily there are now signs that SLS may be cancelled so only around $12 billion down the rat hole.

  • Seamus||

    Technically, Musk *did* violate the law. California may not ban possession of marijuana, but the federal government does. Saying he didn't break the law is like saying that, because my state doesn't have a law against private ownership of nuclear weapons, it's legal for me to own one.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Anything to delay U.S. manned spaceflight, right? And people think the government should run most things. Ye gods.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Tru dat!

  • Sevo||

    There's plenty of reasons to dislike Musk, but this ain't one of them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Let my astronauts go!

  • Shirley Knott||

    Musk is all about crony, not chronic.

  • Frank Thorn||

    NASA is hobby, self serving jobs for the select few. Most of it could be shut down and no one outside the agency would notice. Balance the budget and get rid of the 21.7 trillion dollar debt then talk about foolish high risk stunts like a manned mission to Mars.

    example- Part of shuttle mission STS107 was to study "ants in space" for Fowler High School students. Cost? I dunno but when you factor in that the crew of 7 died and the vehicle was lost the cost was pretty high (a similar study was done 4 years earlier). The ants died too so NASA felt the need to do 3 more 'ants in space' studies on the ISS (another colossal money pit producing practicably no useful science).

    Last years Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert - Ants in Space

  • Frank Thorn||

  • rbike||

    I made a lot of money so far designing machine for SLS. Yes they needed (2) , one for a backup. Just in case, you know, like production rates demanded more. Or one broke down. The machines were only $3 million a piece.
    These were shipped 3 years ago. Pretty sure they are standing idle at the Michoud center in New Orleans.
    Highly impressive facility.

  • Hank Phillips||

    How odd. Has Bridenstine troubled to notice the jimmying of climate data under the NASA banner? For years now econazi infiltrators bent on putsching a carbon tax have so embarrassed the agency as to cause 49 embarrassed techs who worked there to sign a 2012 letter (long after the 32000-signature Petition Project) complaining of the misuse of GISS data. Contrasting images of past and present reports show temperature data is altered to make the past cooler in support of the theory that temperature is increasing. Fraud at the agency should take precedence over the other brand of pseudoscience prompting legislators to send men with loaded service pistols after our kids because of plant leaves. Reagan's "drug"-free workplace edict coincided with the worst financial crash since 1929, when the income tax law was used to enforce laws making beer a felony. The 2007 crash was likewise an instance of faith-based asset forfeiture looting causing severe economic instability.

  • Sigivald||

    Of course it's an overreaction.

    But equally, he did not "legally smoke weed".

    He smoked weed without violating a state law, but he still violated a Federal law, quite openly.

    I don't care, and NASA shouldn't, since they're not the DEA and he doesn't actually make and design and build the rockets.

    But let's not pretend Federal laws don't exist, when they're the problem?

  • Seph Allen||

    That would be NASA spokesperson Bob Jacobs, not Ben Jacobs. Mistakes such as getting names wrong that undermine the credibility of other details in your story.

  • Michael Cook||

    Tesla investors are the ones who have been smoking the weed.

  • SQRLSY One||

    NASA can't fight their way our of a paper bag, and wants to spend $1 billion plus per SLS non-recyclable launch. Space X comes along to totally embarrass them, so what do they do? Go on a totally irrelevant anti-pot-smoking witch hunt!

    "Well, see, Space X ain't all that cool, either, 'cause they can't launch our astronauts, 'cause their top dwag smokes pot on TV."

    So there! Case closed! NASA rules, Space X drools!

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