Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The One That Got Away

Life's not fair. Now, there's an annoying phrase.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who's been in the application process for a job they really wanted. My friend was recently eliminated from the process for having smoked pot in the past (25 or less times). And  not recent past, we're talking 2+ years.

I'm by no means an active, or even passive, member of NORML but like many Americans I have my views on the way we treat some substances versus others. Generally speaking, I don't think employers should be allowed to ask history of marijuana use questions, they should not drug test candidates, and most importantly, they should not disqualify outstanding candidates for past marijuana use solely based on some arbitrary rule of what's "acceptable experimentation" and what has "exceeded our [their] standards" (that's the phrase they actually said to my friend).

Hearing my friend's story also made me think about the way that we decide what's "good" and what's not. I heard a researcher on Positive Youth Development speak the other day about how society/parents decide whether or not a child is "doing well." One of the most interesting things he said is that often we equate the absence of bad behaviors (drinking, smoking, unsafe sex) to doing good/well. 

If you'd asked my friend: During the same time you were trying pot, did you volunteer? Yes.  Were you active in your school, were you nice to your classmates, did you play sports, did you help those in need? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Would that have mattered?

Why do we classify adults as good in the absence of bad too?

I consider my friend a good person, not because they don't drink and drive and aren't addicted to drugs; they don't steal, cheat or lie. I consider them a good person because of all the GOOD they do, not the bad that they avoid. My friend is a thoughtful significant other, a smart college graduate, and an engaged citizen who contributes to their community.

I know that it's not my friend's loss that this employer chose to pass on an exceptional candidate for the job.

But to my friend, it sure feels like defeat.

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