Spaceflight Insider

Opinion: Musk marijuana story much ado about nothing

During an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, Elon Musk sampled a tobacco/marijuana cigar. The reaction, or overreaction, from the media was as disappointing as it was unnecessary. Image Credit: PowerfulJRE

During an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, Elon Musk sampled a tobacco/marijuana cigar. The reaction, or overreaction, from the media was as disappointing as it was unnecessary. Image Credit: PowerfulJRE

Elon Musk smoked pot and drank whiskey in California. The story was painted as if the event was some bizarre Matthew McConaughey moment where Musk was banging on a bongo drum and smoking weed. After watching the 2.5-hour Joe Rogan interview, one is left with the impression that some in the media must be in desperate need of views.

The interview in question is nowhere near as salacious as some have made it out to be. In fact, in some cases the interview is downright boring. During the interview Musk, who is worth an estimated $20 billion, is offered a tobacco/marijuana cigar and accepts it. Musk takes a drag while wearing an “Occupy Mars” t-shirt.

Riding atop the Falcon Heavy during its maiden flight is Elon Musk's Tesla Roadser. It also has a dummy inside called "starman" in addition to several camera booms. Photo Credit: Elon Musk

Musk’s Tesla Roadser was sent into a heliocentric orbit in February of 2018 as the payload for the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket. It also had a dummy inside called “starman” in addition to several camera booms. Photo Credit: Elon Musk

His interview was held in California where recreational marijuana use is legal. Whiskey is legal in the United States. He broke no laws. Still, this event was used to suggest Musk’s empire, specifically his automobile company Tesla, was now in peril because he had done something…legal. Despite the facts, these reports have had what was likely their intended affect.

While his Tesla Roadster might have been sent through the stratosphere during the February 2018 inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket, Tesla’s stock has plummeted some nine percent since the Joe Rogan interview.

Even NASA isn’t free when it comes to issues surrounding drug use. On no fewer than two occasions cocaine has been discovered at facilities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (as noted on Space News). The drug was found in the Orbiter Processing Facility, where the shuttles were worked on. This raised concerns that individuals who were working on the now-retired fleet were high while doing so. Musk does not physically work on either the Falcon family of rockets or the Dragon spacecraft and cocaine is considered a good deal more potent.

Musk’s companies have developed several technologies disruptive to long-held beliefs. He has also demonstrated a preference to interview with non-traditional media platforms. The Rogan interview is conversational in nature. Most anyone who has sat around and chatted with friends about all manner of topics, will likely find themselves asking: “who decided this was a big deal?”

Musk touched on the most likely long-term impact of this manufactured “crisis” when the discussion touched on leaked nude images of actress Jennifer Lawrence: “… she seems to be doing okay.” Musk also will likely be “okay” after the dust settles.

This doesn’t mean Musk’s actions didn’t draw attention after the first toke. At one point, he received a text from “a friend” and according to Musk the text read “… what the hell are you doing smoking weed?” 

Indeed when it finally came to the “blunt” part of the conversation some 2 hours, 10 minutes into the interview, most will come to realize that a lot of emphasis was raised over nothing. Smoking and having a drink with Rogan won’t destroy either SpaceX or Tesla.

So how has the interview impacted SpaceX operations? By all outward appearances, it hasn’t. The Hawthorne, California-based company is currently working to launch the Telstar 18 VANTAGE satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida today (Sunday, Sept. 9).

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted this picture of the company's Crew Dragon vehicle being prepared for testing in an anechoic chamber. Photo credit: Elon Musk

One of the next major items that Musk’s company SpaceX is aiming to accomplish is the launch of its Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: Elon Musk

Musk inhaled and it made him all the more human for doing so. He went so far as to note that the formation of Tesla was like “…stupidity squared.” He went on to explain how Tesla got things wrong. Honesty should never be punished. Sadly, it all too frequently is and those in same position as Musk have become more and more secretive.

Musk and SpaceX are usually unwilling to cooperate with the media, unless they have an obvious pro-SpaceX bias. The reaction from the Rogan interview provides an example as to why. This has to be one of the most open interviews ever conducted by a space official. CNBC and others are encouraging him to never do it again. 

By suggesting Musk had conducted some horrifically unprofessional act, the media who did so have only served to validate the billionaire’s recalcitrant nature. Anytime members of the media complain about his unwillingness to be interviewed, Musk now has a glaring example of why he has chosen to do so. 

Some have stated he was “set up” during the interview. Musk is worth $20 billion and is intelligent enough not to be tricked into doing anything he doesn’t want to. He knew he was being interviewed. He asks if the cigar contains marijuana. Rogan even asks if his stockholders will draw issue with him doing it. 

To say that in the past SpaceX has constipated the media’s efforts is an understatement. While that interaction has improved, the company still has a ways to go. This recent incident, while focused on Tesla, is likely to serve to impede what progress has been made.

The language from both interviewer and interviewee is—colorful. The format is not traditional. The use of alcohol and marijuana is certainly not what one would expect from the founder of several companies. Therein lies another question: Is it because of this attitude and behavior that SpaceX has ushered in a space renaissance? Is it the entrenched views on professionalism that has caused the status quo to stay in place for so long? Has innovation been stifled due to triviality and inflexibility?

As much as this recent “controversy” is manufactured, it does help to raise questions about the changes we are witnessing and for us to reconsider concepts on what is acceptable and inappropriate. 

Musk did nothing illegal. CEOs like Bernie Madoff, Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Bernie Ebbers, Sanjay Kumar and David Edmondson have actually been convicted of something illegal. 

More likely than not, this situation stems from the fact that Musk is not like those CEOs noted above—he has never been a part of the establishment. As of yet, Musk has not been convicted of the litany of crimes the “established” professionals noted above have been. While the reports on this topic are great for gaining much-desired “clicks,” they lack perspective. 

The Rogan interview was refreshing as it allowed us to see Musk be open and bluntly (pun fully intended) honest.

Musk hinted at events such as this one when the topic of more people being like him was raised: “I don’t think you’d want to be me … I don’t think most people would like it that much.” Given the furor raised Friday, he’s not wrong.

Video courtesy PowerfulJRE



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Absolutely. While he does seem to be very much out of his tree, it seems that everything he does is newsworthy for who he is, not what he does. For example, every time the share price of Tesla moves, it apparently must be associated with something he did or said, no matter how tenuous.

You have missed the likely real fallout from this situation. Musk has stated that he might take tesla private. Then stated he would not. Now he smokes wacky tabaccy and decimated tesla stock value making it more economic to go private for him. The SEC will look at this as a possible stock price manipulation ploy and start yet another investigation. Unintended or intentional the dubie has had consequences. And that is the blunt truth of it.

Nothing unless you happen to own Tesla stock. He is also being sued by stock owners for stock manipulation. You can’t make unfounded public statements about a publicly traded company without facts which back it up. That tweet about having funding secured to take Tesla private will end up costing him a lot, unless he can prove it was true.

One word describes this mess…Icarus

He’s certainly not doing himself any favours…

I couldn’t believe the “taking Tesla private” tweet. Like you say, that will surely cost him (even more than the libel!)

I haven’t heard this before. Source please if you don’t mind.

Totally agree with Mr Rhian. Storm in a teacup.

Neil stop trying to make it look like others are making stuff up “I haven’t heard this before”. These stories are everywhere and suggesting they’re not is BS. You’re either oblivious or dishonest. We’ve all seen your sycophantic comments and we know what you are.

No not the ‘taking Tesla private’ stuff, that’s been everywhere. I was referring to the lawsuit. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Tried to reply to Bill but somehow my post ended up on the bottom.
And thanks Angeleyes, your comment wasn’t useful or polite so why make it in the first place?

Thanks for the libel link Jason. Somehow missed that.

There may be CEOs who don’t, or never drink. There may even be some who have never used Marijuana, again few. What we find a multitude of is: HYPOCRITES!
My only negative (for me) on the interview was Musk’s seeming dismissal of the EFFECTS of marijuana and alcohol. Just like “drinking and driving”, a note that ANY person should not undertake brain-in-gear functions while “under the influence” would allay some legitimate fears.

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