Since New York’s decriminalization of marijuana and the rise of near-odorless vaping, a cannabis industry advocate, there are now more than 6,000 purveyors in the five boroughs, selling vaping products.
“I have a high-pressure job,” said Amy S., the CEO of an internet startup with more than a dozen employees. When she’s having a crazy day, the 40-year-old heads down to the alley and reaches inside her Rebecca Minkoff handbag to retrieve her vaporizer. She spends 20 minutes or so puffing while making phone calls to her adviser, her lawyer, her CPA, her dad.
“I’m not embarrassed,” she said. “I don’t think [smoking during the work day] should have a stigma. If I never told anyone, no one would know.”
Amy is just one of a growing legion of marijuana-vaping New Yorkers who smoke at work.
“There are approximately 30 million adult cannabis users in the US, of which approximately 10 million vape,” said Bethany Gomez of the Brightfield Group, a market research firm. “Approximately 35 percent consume cannabis daily. While we don’t have hard statistics on the number of people vaping at work, it stands to reason that there are millions of Americans [doing so] on a regular basis.”
Vape pens are powered by a rechargeable battery and use an internal atomizer to heat up ground marijuana so that the essential oils are released, creating an inhalable vapor. Some vape smokers use highly concentrated cannabis oil on its own.
Jonathan, a 29-year-old who handles investments at an Edison, NJ, financial services office, said the new way of smoking makes all the difference.
“I’ve been smoking marijuana every day since I was 18,” he said. But toking the traditional way “didn’t mix well with productivity.”
With vaping, “There’s no lethargic feelings, no munchies, no red eyes. It’s a functional high,” he added. “If I have a presentation or I’m nervous, I’ll take one hit. It helps me focus and calms me down.”
He insists that he’s never felt too impaired to handle people’s money, but added that “it’s taboo . . . to let clients know [I smoke at work].”
Meanwhile, blue-collar bosses are cracking down on the practice.
Last month, Tony, a 32-year-old construction foreman from Yonkers, NY, was on a project where he caught an employee vaping marijuana on the roof of the building. He fired the guy on the spot.
“He could be putting us all in jeopardy. You open yourself up to accidents. The whole job can be shut down,” said Tony, who had issued the 40-year-old worker a warning when he thought he smelled marijuana on him days earlier.
“You have to be 100 percent alert at all times on this job. There are hazards — you’re up high, there’s heavy machinery, you can’t be impaired.” He warned, “It’s happening all over the city.”
While marijuana is legal in New York state for medical use, possession of less than 25 grams of the herb has been decriminalized, “People don’t understand the difference between the decriminalization of marijuana and use at work. You can get fired for smoking at work,” said employment lawyer Robert Ottinger. He has seen an increase in the number of clients who claim they were fired for vaping at the office. “We didn’t get those calls five years ago, and now we get a few a month.”
The Kips Bay-based lawyer adds that because New York is an at-will employment state, meaning you can be dismissed from a job for any reason even if you are just “suspected of using [marijuana], you can get fired at-will.”
Amy has a medical marijuana card for arthritis, and she vapes outside because city law bans smoking in most workplaces. But Ottinger points out that even then, “it’s kind of a gray area. The Compassionate Care Act says you can’t work while impaired,” said Ottinger. “You can get fired for that, [even with a medical marijuana] card.”
Of course, Amy is her own boss. And other office workers seemingly don’t mind.
“I smoke it in my office throughout the day. My boss knows and my performance is well above par,” said 28-year-old Steven, who works in small-business funding in the Financial District. “It helps me relax and stay calm and makes me more spontaneous — and that’s good at work.”
Jonathan, the financial services worker, said there is another upside to vaping on the job:
“The commute home is much better now.”
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