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Weed Gaffe Spurs NASA’s ‘Cultural Assessment’ of SpaceX

A video of Elon Musk smoking weed “rankled some at NASA’s highest levels.”

Elon Musk’s aerospace company – SpaceX – has become the target of an external safety review by its biggest business partner.

The Washington Post has spoken with three unnamed sources, all of whom say they know the reason, and it’s a gaffe that’s been following Musk for a few months: In a video recorded interview for Joe Rogan’s podcast back in September, the often-impulsive chief executive smokes what appears to be weed.

And while Musk probably believed it was all in good fun, it’s NASA who appears to have taken it rather seriously. The agency, who has contracted SpaceX in efforts to privatize low orbit space missions, seems to think Elon has a lot of growing up to do, and they plan to undertake an extensive review of the company.

They’re calling it a “cultural assessment study” and it will focus on the workplace culture and drug policies of SpaceX. Boeing Corporation, who also has a contract with NASA for space exploration hardware, seems to have been also lumped into the review, despite there being no evidence of weed-related indiscretions by top execs.

The Washington Post said the video of Musk, which – besides the puff – showed him sipping whiskey “rankled some at NASA’s highest levels.” The report cited NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who told the Post that basically this was less about a conservative agency clutching its pearls, and more about ensuring the public maintains confidence in the space program. He said the agency needs “to show the American public that when we put an astronaut on a rocket, they’ll be safe,” adding that, despite their overall confidence in SpaceX, “culture and leadership start at the top.”

So, even though NASA hasn’t really confirmed that this is about Elon Musk… it’s clearly about Elon Musk. And it begs the question whether other recent erratic behavior from the tech superhero has caused concerns for the agency – you know, small things like being kicked off Tesla’s board for a tangle with the SEC over possible fraud and being sued for defamation after a series of unfortunate Tweets directed at a diver who saved kids trapped in a cave in Thailand.

When you wrap all of this up, is the weed really the biggest problem? How about the fact that this guy is CEO of multiple companies simultaneously and probably only gets a few hours of sleep every night. I think I’d be more worried about that, as long as we’re talking about liabilities. But here’s one thing I’d like to add: innovative entrepreneurs like Elon Musk don’t come along every day – especially not ones who have already made billions but still work 16 hour days because they have such a strong compulsion to succeed. Let’s cut the guy a break on the weed… or maybe punish him with a nap.

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