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Study Shows That Programmers Embrace Cannabis—But Not for Wellness

February 7, 2022 08:00 am ET
Study Shows That Programmers Embrace Cannabis—But Not for Wellness

Throughout history, creative minds have embraced cannabis. Now, a study from researchers at the University of Michigan has concluded that it may also be a favorite among creative geniuses of today—specifically, the software developers that make all the magic happen behind the scenes.

The full findings of the study, “Hashing It Out: A Survey of Programmers’ Cannabis Usage, Perception, and Motivation,” are set to be published in the proceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) in 2022. Per tweets from the study’s main author, Madeline Endres, there were several key findings.

Cannabis and Programming

For the study, 803 programmers were recruited from GitHub + University, including 450 full-time developers. Participants were asked to detail the relationship between their use of cannabis and programming. The study found that 280 of the participants had tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime.

Regarding cannabis use and work, 53% of participants stated they had consumed cannabis while programming a minimum of 12 times. Of the respondents, 18% reported using cannabis while programming at least once monthly, with 27% stating they consume and program simultaneously at least biweekly. Just 4% reported partaking and programming daily.

While the primary motivation for many people to utilize cannabis is most often wellness-related (e.g., for chronic pain, mental health, etc.), this is not the driving force for programmers. Instead, the majority of respondents that utilize cannabis while programming report doing so for the perceived enhancement in their programming skills or for pure enjoyment.

Of the respondents, 61% reported choosing to utilize cannabis “to make programming-related tasks more enjoyable,” and 53% did so in order to “think of more creative programming solutions.” Less than 30% of respondents cited utilizing cannabis while programming for wellness reasons.

Pre-Employment Drug Testing

When it comes to cannabis and employment, the study concluded that 29% of developers had been required to take a drug test for a programming-related job at least once. The study’s author noted that this shows “…at least some disconnect between the preferred practice of a subset of developers and industrial policies.” While many programmers may feel that software managers strongly disapprove of cannabis, it might not be as intense as they think, according to the study.

When you look at it from the bigger picture, it would appear that current policies requiring pre-employment drug screenings for cannabis by those in the programming field may be preventing fully qualified individuals from seeking employment simply because they enjoy a natural substance. Like the author of the study also stated, it means that there is ample room for continued study “investigating the intersection of mind-altering substances and software development.”

Developers may not be the only ones not seeking out prime employment in their fields due to their love of cannabis. If studies were conducted, it is likely that similar findings would be concluded within many different skill sets and career paths. In 2014, former FBI Director James Comey made statements pertaining to his desire to loosen employment restrictions around cannabis, stating that some prospective agents may “…want to smoke weed on the way to the interview.”

As an individual who has been consuming cannabis for more than 20 years, I have met green leaf warriors from all walks of life who have embraced cannabis despite its legality. This includes individuals from many different career paths, from doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers, and teachers to truck drivers, computer specialists, hospitality workers, and servers.

These folks risked their jobs by embracing the plant, and many had to utilize very creative measures in order to pass pre-employment drug screenings. Others had to endure various health issues for many months in order to obtain the job they were after due to the illegality of cannabis at the time.

Accepting Cannabis in the Workplace

Luckily, discrimination against cannabis use is waning. Even the U.S. government admits it may be missing out on skilled employees. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memo in 2021 to federal agencies stating that previous use of cannabis should not automatically disqualify potential employees from being employed in positions throughout the federal government. However, they did not weigh in on current use.

Additionally, major employer Amazon has already made moves to end all pre-employment drug screenings for cannabis. The company also proactively restored employment eligibility to those who had been previously terminated from their positions with the company for failing a drug screening for THC.

It is innovative studies like the research into programmer cannabis use that may seem insignificant to some but are truly evolving the industry and addressing the unjust cannabis stigma. Should more states follow in line with recent moves by New York, pre-employment drug screening for cannabis may be a thing of the past, opening many doors that were previously closed for highly qualified individuals who like to partake in cannabis.

Cannabis is the most widely utilized “illicit drug” in the world. It is a no-brainer that individuals from all paths in life embrace this plant, and hopefully, in time, we will see the stigma surrounding it that stops many from potential employment abolished once and for all.

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