We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the changing face of cannabis. Long gone are the lazy stoner stereotypes. They’ve been replaced by the revamped image of cannabis as modern, medicinal, safe, and even glamorous.
This revamped image—from pothead vice to promising stock opportunity—is the result of shifting public opinion and the growing presence of cannabis everywhere from the marketplace to the office space. From high-end beauty to pro athletics, marijuana is taking its place as a normal part of American life, as ubiquitous as alcohol, without the hangover.
That said, it’s no surprise that THC and CBD have made appearances in the once-buttoned up echelons of big business.
Business is Booming
Tesla founder Elon Musk in 2018 nearly broke the internet with his on-air smoke session on a podcast, which now seems almost quaint as more high-profile figures hitch their wagons to the cannabis train. From famous investors—including former Speaker of the House John Boehner to celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, marijuana is having its moment in the mainstream.
Some business leaders have been staunch advocates for reforms, including Bill Gates and Whole Foods founder John Mackey, who have both rallied for outright legalization.
Unsurprisingly, CEOs of cannabis companies have been forthright about their use at work. As the faces of the modern cannabis industry, these wellness-focused leaders are vocal about the beneficial role of cannabis in a normal day, including at work. They cite cannabis’ usefulness in everything from managing ADD to using CBD to offset the pain of high heels and a tool for finding increased creativity – even as a way to stay up to date with their product and attuned to the user experience.
Here are other high-profile CEOs that haven’t been shy about their cannabis use:
Bloomberg was a three-term mayor of New York City and the founder and CEO of his namesake financial software, data, and media company. Although he presided over thousands of small-time marijuana busts during his tough-on-crime tenure, he famously answered a question about smoking pot with: “You bet I did, and I enjoyed it.”
Branson has famously brandished a rock-n-roll reputation, and has some legit cannabis bona fides: he reportedly learned to roll a joint from Rolling Stone Keith Richards himself. Branson’s Virgin empire spans multiple sectors, and he has publicly shared his desire to invest in legal marijuana. In an interview with GQ, he told Piers Morgan that he and his son light up together.
Super-super-superstar Oprah remains one of the world’s most successful women, with a net worth hovering around the $3 billion mark. Although she hasn’t been vocal on advocacy issues, she has twice publically discussed her past marijuana use.
The CEO and founder of tech company Descartes Labs told Bloomberg News he was a full-on stoner. He openly discussed the laissez-faire attitude of the Silicon Valley set, saying that most tech workers were on board. When he was CEO of Zite, a Silicon Valley news streaming site, he said: “People just don’t care. If you do, you don’t need to hide it; and if you don’t, you accept that there are people around you that do.” He also spoke to cannabis’ effect on productivity: “Pot is an extremely functional drug,” he said. “Coders can code on it, writers can write on it.”
Lewis was the CEO of Progressive Insurance for some 40 years, and remained on its board until his death. He claimed to be “a functioning pot head” who used both recreationally and for relief from chronic pain associated with a leg amputation in the late 90s.
Indeed, a growing body of execs pay testament to the fact that professionalism and cannabis are not mutually exclusive. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis use helps people focus, stay creative, calms aches and pains, all without harmful side effects.
Nevertheless, no matter how far the world of business has come in recognizing cannabis’ role as a beneficial part of daily life, we still have some ways to go. The reaction to Elon Musk’s public toke—just two years ago—was telling. In a 2.5-hour interview, his single inhalation, in a state where it is legal, sent Tesla stocks tumbling. Nevermind that Musk continued to carry on a thoughtful and intelligent conversation afterward, and despite the fact that he and host Joe Rogan sipped whiskey the entire interview without mention.
Thankfully, successful people everywhere are demonstrating that outdated ideas about marijuana’s place in the world are a thing of the past.