There’s just something about being on your feet all day and dealing with insufferable people who lie about having trendy food allergies that makes servers want to get stoned. According to a recent study that surveyed 10,000 working adults in Colorado between 2014-15, just over 30 percent of food service and hotel employees admitted to current marijuana use, which is more than any other industry in the state.
If you ever worked in a restaurant, this should come as no surprise. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the hospitality industry your entire life, I’m going to fill you in on why no one wants to be sober.
When I moved to Boulder from Maryland in 2012, I didn’t know anyone. After dropping out of grad school a couple months later, I did what every young person who has no idea how life works does: wait tables. I ended up working at a popular brewery in town and quickly adjusted to a world of aggressive drinking, chain smoking and never having to buy groceries again.
Everyone from the teenage hostess to the general manager was smoking weed at some point before, during or after their shift. On more than one occasion, even the wealthy owner would show up unannounced and start cleaning random tables because he was stoned and thought it was funny to introduce himself to customers as the bus boy (it was).
The reality of server life, or at least in my experience, is that it typically involves a fast-paced work environment where you’re surrounded by other young, conventionally attractive people who like to party. The stress and drama that comes with it is just part of business, but that’s not the only reason why servers are turning to cannabis.
For starters, the study mentions that people ages 18-25 smoke the most weed, which is also the age group most likely to work in a restaurant. Also, getting paid in tips means that you always have a ton of cash at your disposal. Dealing with so much paper money felt like a constant hole burning in my wallet because if it wasn’t deposited in my bank account, I could justify it as “extra” to spend on whatever I wanted. And it just so happened that cash was the only form of payment accepted by most dispensaries at the time, making it a simple transaction.
Then consider that servers are on the complete opposite schedule of everyone else in the world. When most people are heading home from the office, servers are just going in. And when most people are sound asleep, they are scrubbing down a bar. Naturally, I would wake up around noon and, because I didn’t have to deal with emails, work or anything that required even a minimal amount of cognitive functioning when I wasn’t on the clock, I could wake and bake pretty much every day.
Then there’s the whole culture of mild drug use as a way to connect with your coworkers. Everyday you all have to deal with an endless amount of commands, rude people and poor tippers. There’s a lot of camaraderie that happens when you earn close to nothing compared to the amount of work that you do and the patience you have to maintain. It’s that labor-intensive job that necessitates breaks.
And there’s no better excuse for a break than going out for a quick smoke. After a tough shift, you’re gonna want to bond with your coworkers over a spliff and do your best impersonation of the snob who complained because they only wanted ONE slice of lemon in their water and NO ice. GOD.
Most of the people working in the service industry are just trying to get by. When I was doing it, I was living month to month and had no idea what kind of impact I wanted to make on the world. Weed helped me stay chill and not stress myself to the point of overthinking everything I was doing wrong in life.
Eventually, my writing career took off, which is ironic because according to the same study mentioned earlier, artists and entertainers aren’t far behind servers when it comes to enjoying cannabis. Twenty-eight percent of people in those fields say they currently smoke weed.
In all other professions surveyed, fewer than 6 percent of workers said they’d recently used marijuana. The employees least likely to use marijuana are those working in education, public administration; mining, oil and gas; and health care, basically anywhere there’s a possibility of getting drug tested or where there are bigger consequences than being reprimanded for accidentally giving someone regular Coke instead of diet.