While marijuana is legal in multiple states – including California, where Musk’s stunt took place – it remains illegal under federal law. And illegal drug use is also considered a violation of the terms of a government security clearance.
The NASA contract to SpaceX to pay for the workplace review — a modification to a previous contract to build a space capsule — also marks a new chapter in its ongoing tension with more established rivals like Boeing.
Boeing and SpaceX are competing to build a new space capsule for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX is building the Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing is manufacturing the Starliner. Both programs are behind schedule.
But while Boeing was also directed to undertake the same review of workplace safety and culture after Musk's marijuana smoking, it didn’t get any extra funds to cover the cost.
The episode raises a number of questions, said Pete Garrettson, a recently retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and space strategist.
“As a taxpayer why would I pay when I don’t have to?” he asked. "If I was Boeing, I also would have said, ‘Why am I being punished without the same compensation?’"
But if the aerospace giant wanted NASA to cover the costs of the review, he added, it may have faced uncomfortable questions about why its costs for the Commercial Crew Program are so much higher than SpaceX’s.