The Only Black Guy in the Office

No, I Don’t Want to Be Your Workplace Weed Buddy

Why I keep my recreational activities to myself

Before quarantine life, back when I was commuting to and from work five times a week, there was nothing better than ending a long day of office tokenism by coming home, rolling up a modestly sized blunt, and puffing a thick cloud of anxieties into the air. It was a ritual of sorts, a way to unwind and unplug from the microaggressions, stress, and fuckery that regularly take place at work. It’s only been a few weeks, but that seems like ages ago — especially with my weed stash down to the stems, and my guy not making deliveries until things calm down a little.

Here in Seattle, marijuana is not only legal, it’s also a way of life. Dispensaries, like liquor and wine shops in other cities, have been deemed “essential businesses,” and thus allowed to operate through shelter-in-place orders. Still, when the topic of marijuana arises in casual conversation with co-workers, I’ll usually deny ever inhaling, word to Hillary’s hubby.

It’s not like I even have to deny; they’re so clumsy with what they think are subtle investigations that I just stonewall them. Someone might ask if I have a lighter. (“Nah.”) Or a less vague question about what I’ve got planned for 4/20. (“Probably just gonna chill out.”) Other times, they’ll just ask if I smoke, a question intentionally ambiguous enough to refer to either cigarettes or chronic. (“Hookah’s fun every now and then, as long as it’s not one of those silly-ass flavors.”)

Between the questions and their stilted slang — one dude asked me if I was into “dubsacks” like he’d just listened to The Chronic for the first time — it usually feels like these colleagues assume I smoke weed because I’m one of the “cool” (see: Black) employees. I’m not a selfish person, either with bud or information, but I am wary of the stereotypes that come with being a marijuana user, and how those preconceived notions can affect me in the workplace. So I keep quiet about smoking loud, even while living and working in a city where it’s been decriminalized.

I’m not a selfish person, either with bud or information, but I’m wary of the stereotypes that come with being a marijuana user, and how those preconceived notions can affect me in the workplace.

Maybe I’m being overly cautious, but my experiences have taught me that it’s better to keep that portion of my personal life separate from my professional world. Before I worked in corporate America, I’d sometimes take a few pulls before clocking into my retail job selling high-end shoes. One time, I went a little overboard with the wake-and-bake session and came in to work a bit off my game. That day, I brought dudes shoes in the wrong sizes or would forget which styles they’d requested altogether. This is before I converted to vaping — which, for me, delivers a focused, more functional high — but since that day, I’d sworn off showing up to work while under the influence.

That principle is especially true now that I’m in a cushy marketing role, but I’ve learned even opening up about weed use can backfire. I once told a former co-worker, a wiseass named Brian, that I had spent a Saturday night high out of my mind after inadvertently eating an edible. I knew damn well the strawberry gummies were THC infused, but I didn’t tell him that. Still, he spent the subsequent workdays making sly jokes around the office about whether the snacks in the kitchen could have the same effect, or deliberating whether I seemed a bit more tired than usual or if something else was at play. Ugh.

The irony is that dudes like Brian (see: White and mediocre) had the gall and puff puff privilege to come to work stoned and/or smelling like dank — and would never be called out or penalized for it. This should be no surprise, as this is the same office where dudes would pull out coke during after-work hangouts. Maybe I could’ve taken some light tokes during lunch breaks with impunity, but I’d never feel safe doing so without it potentially affecting the perception of my work.

As a result, these days, when colleagues ask about my favorite marijuana strains (Granddaddy Purple) or Hulu recommendations for the ganja gang (Lucas Bros. Moving Co.), I just play clueless. And while I like to keep weed and business separate, working from home can invite temptation. In honor of 4/20 today, maybe I’ll get lifted on company time, just this once. No one would ever suspect it — it’s impossible to see red eyes on Zoom when your camera is turned off.

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.

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