Perhaps Brock Hopkins of West Glacier, Montana agrees with me. That might explain why Mr. Hopkins felt the need to fortify himself with several puffs of marijuana before feeding the grizzlies as part of his job at a private bear park run for tourist entertainment. (Keep in mind that grizzlies have very little in common with Winnie-the-Pooh. National Geographic describes grizzlies as “powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators” that can be dangerous to humans).
Wimp or not, Mr. Hopkins crawled into the bear cage with a bucket of tasty treats after smoking marijuana. He was mauled, but survived.
Ahem. It was probably another buzz kill for Mr. Hopkins’ when his employer argued that he should not receive workers’ compensation benefits because (among other reasons) use of marijuana was a contributing cause of the injuries.
At first, the State of Montana agreed with the employer and denied benefits. Montana’s workers’ compensation law says: “An employee is not eligible for benefits . . . if the employee’s use of alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician is the major contributing cause of the accident.” Mr. Hopkins appealed and a judge has decided to grant benefits after all.
The judge ruled that even though using pot before interacting with bears was “ill advised” and “mind-bogglingly stupid”, there was no evidence that Mr. Hopkins’ pot use was the major cause of the incident. The judge explained: “When it comes to attacking humans, grizzlies are equal opportunity maulers, attacking without regard to race, creed, ethnicity, or marijuana usage.”
Before any readers accuse us of providing a mere Friday fluff piece, here are the practical lessons we have learned:
- Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace.
- The duty includes protecting employees from themselves. And bears.
- The duty includes protecting “mind-bogglingly stupid” workers, despite anything Darwin might say.
- One way to maintain safety is to have (and enforce) a Drug-Free Workplace policy. (The Department of Labor provides guidance.)
- Human beings can survive grizzly bear attacks. (But you should learn how to save yourself before you encounter the bear.)
Update – September 2010: Too bad this employee was not armed with a zucchini, like the woman who warded off a bear attack with one this week. Read all about it, here.