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It happens. Some really good kids mess up their future career plans because they get high with friends on the weekend.

They’re not bad kids, and they’re certainly not intending to cause long-term damage to their careers.

However, weed can do that. Even though smoking marijuana is legal in much of the country, including here in Washington state, it still can have serious ramifications in young peoples’ lives. For starters, not many Whatcom County companies hire employees who smoke pot, even if it’s just on the weekends. Safety-conscious companies that require employees to be alert won’t hire prospective team members who test positive for drugs. For many positions and in many industries — nationwide and here in Bellingham, Ferndale and Lynden — youth have a choice between weed and work. That’s true for entry-level warehouse workers, for employees of companies with federal contracts, for experienced chemical engineers, and for a great many other positions up and down the line.

In most of the business scenarios we at Bostec see here in Whatcom County, smoking weed will prevent youth from landing a job. Among the companies that Bostec works with, 100 percent of the ones regulated by the Washington state Department of Transportation and 90 percent of the rest don’t allow their employees to use marijuana.

While it’s true that some companies are changing their drug screening policies in light of changing marijuana laws, the vast majority still screen for marijuana. According to data from Quest Diagnostics, as reported in The New York Times, “only a small number of companies have struck marijuana from the list of drugs they screen for, and nationally, roughly 99 percent of all general work force drug tests include marijuana.”

For parents, the message for their children is simple: Why invite potential career-altering problems over something like marijuana? Sure, some jobs are available for youth who smoke pot. Sure, some businesses here in Washington state are stopping screening for marijuana. But why take the risk or invite the hassle? (And that’s not even mentioning the fact that it certainly has not been proven that marijuana is a harmless drug.)

It’s weed or work.

Here are five points Whatcom County parents can make with their kids:

  1. Despite its legality, weed does have mind-altering effects that make it dangerous to use in safety-conscious industries.
  2. Research has shown a link between marijuana use and increased vehicle crashes, making it dangerous for driving positions.
  3. Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, companies with federal contracts won’t hire employees who smoke weed.
  4. Marijuana can be addictive; the data show that one in six adolescent users will become dependent on it.
  5. All of that adds up to this: When you smoke weed, the number of companies that might hire you sinks dramatically. Do you want to smoke weed, or do you want to work?

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