Over a third of software programmers say they’ve indulged in cannabis while on the job, with many finding that it helps promote creativity and get them in the “programming zone,” according to recent studies. Analysts at the University of Michigan said that anecdotal evidence suggests that individuals in programming were more likely to use marijuana on the job, so they set out to conduct the “first large-scale survey” on the topic, asking 803 developers to detail how cannabis plays a role in their work. The study’s motivation was that drug testing policies remain prevalent within the programming department, which is possibly contributing to “hiring shortages for certain jobs.” It’s even the case on the federal level, the research authors mention, quoting former FBI Director James Comey, who said in 2014 that he was interested in loosening employment policies around marijuana because a few prospective agents “want to smoke weed on the way to the interview.”
According to the study, “This prohibition of cannabis use in software engineering has contributed to a widely-reported hiring shortage for certain US government programming jobs.” Around 35 percent of survey participants said that they’ve “tried cannabis while programming or completing another software engineering-related task.” Seventy-three percent of the group said they’ve used cannabis while on the job in the past year. Fifty-three percent expressed they’ve consumed marijuana while programming around 12 times, 27 percent revealed they used it twice a week, and four percent said they partake while working on a near day-to-day basis.
The study’s authors wanted a better understanding of why programmers choose to consume cannabis, too. They found that the most common reasons individuals hit the bong on the job were brainstorming, coding, prototyping, and testing. The study reads, “Overall, we found that programmers were more likely to report enjoyment or programming enhancement motivations than wellness motivations: the most common reasons were ‘to make programming-related tasks more enjoyable’ (61%) and ‘to think of more creative programming solutions’ (35%).” The study continues, “In fact, all programming enhancement reasons were selected by at least 30% of respondents. On the other hand, general wellness-related reasons (such as mitigating pain and anxiety) were all cited by less than 30% of respondents. Thus, while wellness does motivate some cannabis use while programming, it is not the most common motivation.” While there’s a blaring prevalence of marijuana use amongst programmers, even most individuals who don’t partake support reform, as reported by the study.
The authors wrote that “Ninety-one percent of our participants say that marijuana use should be legal for both recreational and medicinal use compared to 60 percent of the general United States population in 2021.” The study also found that “cannabis use while programming occurs at similar rates for programming employees, managers, and students despite differences in cannabis perceptions and visibility.” The study continues, “Our results have implications for programming job drug policies and motivate future research into cannabis use while programming.” As drug testing policies become more of a hot topic, studies such as this one help better understand cannabis and its role in the workforce.