Marijuana: O.penVAPE changes its drug-testing policy after pot-advocate criticism

Categories: Marijuana
Photo by Christine Cool
O.pen VAPE's Todd Mitchem with Boulder Weekly cannabis columnist Leland Rucker.
Update below: Back in January, as part of a post about a marijuana tour hosted by O.penVAPE, a Denver-based firm whose vape pens and other products have been acclaimed by cannasseurs across the planet, we published the photo above, in which company chief revenue officer Todd Mitchem can be seen enjoying some herb just after recreational use became legal.

The image doesn't suggest that Mitchem would be in favor of drug-testing his employees -- but in April, the firm announced that it would be doing exactly that. The result was a month of controversy, with a well-known pot advocate jousting with Mitchem on social media over the approach. Now, however, O.penVAPE has amended its policy and the critic is praising Mitchem for doing the right thing.
The profile pic on the O.penVAPE Facebook page features the company's logo over a Colorado landscape.
Here's the opening paragraphs from an April 17 press release about the drug-testing approach:
Following U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's public comments that he would work with Congress to reexamine how marijuana is scheduled, O.penVAPE, the largest brand in the cannabis industry, has announced it will begin testing its employees for dangerous drug abuse.

Todd Mitchem, O.PenVAPE's chief revenue officer and public spokesperson, said the company wants to lead by example and reinforce the important differentiation between cannabis and other scheduled drugs.

"Unlike dangerous drugs, cannabis can be part of a healthy lifestyle that promotes wellness," Mitchem said. "We always encourage consumers to use cannabis responsibly, and, as such, we have implemented a stringent drug policy for our own employees. O.penVAPE understands that, as the largest brand in the cannabis industry, our view holds weight -- and our view is simple: we won't tolerate dangerous drug use by our employees."

It should be noted that Mitchem doesn't single out cannabis as a "dangerous drug" and argues that the DEA's continued listing of it as a Schedule 1 narcotic is wrong. But he also made it clear in the release that O.penVAPE staffers were not allowed to use pot immediately before or during work.

Tom Angell in a 2012 photo.
Among those taking issue with O.penVAPE's policy was Tom Angell, head of the advocacy organization Marijuana Majority and a regular presence in Westword posts. As documented by a post published earlier this month by, Angell tweeted Mitchem the following: ""Can we talk about @openvape drug testing policy ASAP in lieu of public campaign/petition against it." (Angell says he and fellow critics considered launching a petition on the subject.)

Mitchem's reported reply: "We are keeping people safe. So sorry you don't care about employee safety. Grown ups need to behave differently."

More Twitter back-and-forths followed. Here's how CelebStoner synopsizes Mitchem's responses:

"I guess I missed the memo where the MJ community was fighting for employers embracing the abuse of dangerous drugs.... The point here is that we must teach the public cannabis doesn't belong in the same category as dangerous drugs.... The strategy was careful to support mainstream cannabis use but protect the industry from dangerous accidents.... We're also against the war on drugs, it's a failure. But we want to keep our team safe. We are aligned with you.... I love this industry. I use cannabis. I want my team to be safe at work. I respect you all.... As a community & industry we all agree War on Drugs has failed. Lets put our minds together on how to address work place safety."

Nonetheless, controversy over O.penVAPE's position continued to roil, and eventually the company agreed to take part in a conference call with Angell and representatives of other marijuana-advocacy groups, including NORML. The result is a brand new drug policy that's far less harsh. We've reproduced the old and the new policies below in their entirety, but here are a couple of telling excerpts.

First, here's a passage from the old policy:

All employees should report evidence of cannabis, alcohol or dangerous drug abuse to their supervisor immediately. In cases in which the use of cannabis, alcohol or dangerous drugs creates an imminent threat to the safety of persons or property, employees are required by O.penVAPE to report the violation. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
Compare that to the following section from the new policy:
The Company supports an employee's freedom to choose legal substances in their off-work time. However, employees are prohibited from consuming legal but impairing substances, including cannabis and alcohol, during working hours, including during meal and break periods. This does not include the legal, authorized and responsible use of cannabis and alcohol at Company-sponsored functions or activities.
Todd Mitchem.
Mitchem's latest tweets have been effusive in their praise for the Marijuana Majority, NORML and others that had challenged the policy.

Angell, meanwhile, shared the following comment with us via e-mail.

"This started off as a really unfortunate incident of drug-war ignorance but ended up being a positive learning experience," he writes. "What happened here shows that even among those allies who 'get it' with respect to marijuana, there's still a lot of internalized stereotypes and misinformation about other drugs, the people who use them and the fairness and effectiveness of the policies that purport to prevent and treat abuse of those substances.

"The real takeaway here is that it's important for companies in the emerging legal marijuana industry to know that the activists who worked so hard to enact the laws that their businesses are built on will be around to monitor implementation and make sure it lives up to the principles that our drug policy reform movement has fought for so long to make into reality," he continues. "While O.Pen Vape truly erred with their initial policy, they deserve thanks and congratulations for taking the time to hear our concerns and make things right in the end."

Update: Shortly after the publication of our original post, Todd Mitchem reached out and offered the following comments via e-mail.

"The intent of our policy was always to move cannabis away from other more illegal substances," he writes: "We also wanted to keep lab employees safe. What we discovered through fantastic debate was that the real issue was impairment. We don't want people to be impaired at work for any reason. Because of this realization, we went back to the drawing board for two weeks. It was a wonderful exercise in collaboration, which led us to something truly groundbreaking. We now have a policy that we are very proud of and that talks about real impairment awareness."

Mitchem adds that "while I did not appreciate the aggressive tone by the activists (by the way I reacted poorly also), I believe now we can all move forward together in a more conscious, collaborative manner."

He concludes: "I appreciate all of the support the O.penVAPE customers and team have shown us and I am very excited for the future as we continue to expand."

Continue to see the previous O.penVAPE drug policy and the new version.

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Denver Westword
Denver Westword

Good point, Half Aspen. Wonder how many business owners out there are doing the same?


I'm sure the state and OSHA will completely agree with your drug policy when you have your first industrial accident. Good luck with your work comp claim if you work for these guys. 

Rob Payne
Rob Payne

You do realize that PG is used in food all day long? And where have you obtained this information that it acts as a tissue dilator? My personal experience with it seems to be more of a constrictor. I use pg/vg based nicotine liquid, and never once have I felt my bronchial feel more open. I am a great judge of that too. It may or may not be safe in the long run, but your hyperbole condemning something that has been used safely for a long time is a little alarmist in my eyes.

Christine Nicole
Christine Nicole

Excuse me... O.Pen Vape... You all add propylene glycol to your cartridges! How dare you test your staff for 'dangerous drugs' when you're adding a dangerous chemical to your cartridges. Propylene glycol acts as a tissue dilator.. It dilates the skin tissue in your mouth allowing faster absorption of THC. But, if you smoke cigarettes, or you're having a conversation with someone near a running vehicle, or you work in an industry with airborne chemicals... You're rate of absorption of toxic carcinogens and off-gas is now that much more because you just hit your O.Pen. O.Pen should disclose it's dangerous drug list to it's sick patients!! Hypocrites!


OF COURSE YOU SHOULDNT SMOKE POT AT WORK!!>!! FUCKING HIPPIES AND DRUGGIES ARE GOING TO RUIN THIS LEGAL POT THING...god damnit.  just pretend weed is alcohol, wherever you cant drink and operate, you cant smoke weed.  FUCK YOU HIPPIES

Steve At Work
Steve At Work

Despite my support of A64, the company I own tests its employees. We have a zero-tolerance policy for all illicit drugs excluding marijuana and the later is NOT tolerated before or during working hours. We must do so to satisfy our insurance carrier.



Drug mishandling may have tainted 40,000 cases

Scientific studies have shown that blood tests are incapable of determining driving impairment

Drug Free Florida is chaired by Carlton Turner
After his resignation, Turner joined with Robert L. DuPont and former head of
NIDA, Peter Bensinger to corner the market on urine testing.

Soon after Turner left office, Nancy Reagan recommended that no corporation
be permitted to do business with the Federal government without having a
urine purity policy in place to show their loyalty.

Carlton Turner became a rich man in what has now become a huge growth industry: urine-testing.

This kind of business denies the basic rights of privacy, self-incrimination
(Fifth Amendment) rights, unreasonable search and seizure, and the
presumption of innocence (until proven guilty).

Submission to the humiliation of having your most private body parts and functions
observed by a hired voyeur is now the test of eligibility for private
employment, or to contract for a living wage.

Turner’s new money-making scheme demands that all other Americans relinquish their fundamental right to privacy and self-respect.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

"... opium, heroine, [sic] morphine ..."

So even the self-proclaimed "biggest brand" in the Cannabis Industry is staffed by illiterate stoners?

LOL! ... fucking retards.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

So the self-appointed Industry Icons have declared -- unequivocally -- that Marijuana use IS IMPAIRING.

That ought to become easy fodder for the DUI-marijuana prohibitionists and law enforcement goons.

Congratulations! -- REGULATION WORKS!

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... being greedy drug-using prohibitionist hypocrites?

DonkeyHotay topcommenter


Angelina Jolie?

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... Greedy Cannabis Carpetbaggers

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

PG is generally recognized as Safe by the FDA.

It's even used in Pharmaceutical Bronchial Inhalers.

The only reason any vape company uses -- goes to the expense of using PG -- is to reduce the viscosity of the Hash Oil so that it will flow and function inside the small tubes / wicks of portable personal vaporizers.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Half Aspen "We have a zero-tolerance policy for all illicit drugs, excluding marijuana .." 

So you're a prohibitionists ... when it inconveniently affects your Profit$$

Typical hypocritical piece of crap.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter


The Greedy Big $$ Dispensary Corporations like Openvape will kowtow to ANY Prohibitionist propaganda in their lustful grab for quick profits ... patients, caregivers, and minimum wageslave employees be damned.

These idiots, including Marijuana Majority, have now established via this new "improved" policy that Marijuana Use IS IMPAIRING!!

With "industry activists" like these morons, who needs the DEA to denigrate weed ?

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Dende ... and the Greedy Big $$ Dispensary Corporations like Openvape will kowtow to ANY Prohibitionist propaganda in their lustful grab for quick profits ... patients, caregivers, and minimum wageslave employees be damned.

These idiots, including Marijuana Majority, have now established via this new "improved" policy that Marijuana Use IS IMPAIRING!!

With "industry activists" like these morons, who needs the DEA to denigrate weed ?

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