THE MAGAZINE

High on the Job

By Michael A. Gips

When he finally got the job he coveted with the food processing company, Jim (not his real name) was buoyant. The position offered the chance to make important contacts and earn a steady income. Jim and his girlfriend could finally begin to smell the flowers.

The problem was, the flowers came from cannabis plants, and he wasn’t only smelling them, but also cutting, grinding, and selling them to his coworkers. In fact, Jim had applied for the job largely for the purpose of gaining access to the employees, to whom he could purvey marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs. As one of the largest employers in the area, the food processor offered Jim a steady income and a large potential clientele.

Jim was entrepreneurial and successful. Not only did he sell to the younger crowd, but he had also cultivated many of the older workers as clients, men who had worked for the food processor for more than 25 years and had never regularly used drugs before. A convincing salesman, Jim got these workers to experiment with his wares, and he got many of them hooked.

No cash available until payday? No problem. Jim accepted credit and ATM cards, using a portable reader he borrowed from the beauty parlor operated by his girlfriend. The business thrived for more than three years, until the wife of an addicted worker placed an anonymous call to a company hotline.

The company brought in outside experts to conduct an investigation, but doing so was tricky, because of the multiple unions representing the workers and the work rules they enforced. Finally, a single investigator was approved to conduct a covert operation, systematically observing goings-on at the round-the-clock operation. When the investigator determined that he would have to buy drugs to obtain physical evidence, the company asked local law enforcement to get involved.

A four-month investigation revealed a web of drug dealing and use that startled upper management. Four dealers, including Jim, were identified, terminated, and prosecuted. Twenty other employees, who were discovered to have either used drugs at work or shared them with other workers, were also fired. Staff members who had bought and used drugs only off of company property were referred to the company’s employee assistance program. After the incident, the company realized how fortunate it had been that no drug-impaired worker had contaminated or otherwise negligently prepared food that would be distributed to the public. The company ended up completely revamping its substance abuse policy.

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