Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, PayPal, The Boring Company, and rocket startup SpaceX, made a reappearance in the news this month, this time regarding his controversial interview on Joe Rogan’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. Musk spent more than two and a half hours talking to host Rogan about what it’s like inside his head, keeping a car company in business, and trying to get governments to regulate artificial intelligence. What made the interview controversial, though, was when Rogan offered Musk a marijuana cigarette, then Musk accepted and proceeded to smoke. What may seem like a small and insignificant act ended up having huge consequences for Musk, including a 9 percent drop in shares for Tesla Inc. and backlash on social media.
As the podcast clip went viral, Tesla’s stock plummeted 9 percent. The price dipped as low as $252.25 before rebounding to the $270 range at midday. One could argue Musk was representing Tesla as its CEO during the interview. By smoking marijuana, he was “under the influence” while at work, which violates Tesla’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.
Musk also received harsh backlash on social media for his actions. Content was posted on many different platforms criticising Musk’s use of marijuana, even though there technically was nothing illegal about his behavior. Some states like California, where Rogan’s podcast is recorded, have legalized the plant for recreational use. However, marijuana is still illegal according to U.S. federal law. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back President Barack Obama era policies in January that previously dictated the Justice Department would not pursue cases against those who violated federal marijuana laws in states where pot had been legalized.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with Elon Musk’s choice to smoke marijuana,” said junior Kate Merrill. “He is an adult man who, under the circumstances of the time and location of the podcast interview, did not violate any laws. People overreact to celebrities’ actions far too often.”
As of now, Tesla’s stock price has returned to normal, and Elon Musk seems to have faced no penalties for his marijuana-smoking stunt. That being said, it is likely Musk and many other CEOs will not publicize any, if just one time, drug use after this event, because it is evident that their actions can potentially be detrimental for their businesses.