Grizzly Bear Gets All Harsh With Stoner

By Dirk Hanson 05/13/11

The story of a stoked park employee who fought a grizzly bear and came out of it with worker’s comp.

Was this grizzly just after the Cheetos?
Photo via thinkstockphotos

Being mauled by a grizzly bear while on the job would seem to make for a pretty straightforward case when it comes to worker’s compensation. But what if you got really high on weed first, and then walked into a big cage full of grizzly bears—while you were carrying a bucket of food? Still think you’d be entitled to worker’s comp, if anything unpleasant were to happen?

You may be stupid, a Worker’s Compensation Court in Montana ruled, but you still get compensation. The outraged employer filed an appeal, and the case of “Hopkins v. Uninsured Employers Fund” went all the way to the Montana Supreme Court. Did Hopkins, an employee of Great Bear Adventures near West Glacier, get mauled by a grizzly bear for no reason, or did he get mauled because he pulled the ultimate stoner move: He toked up before work and wasn’t paying attention? The high court was asked to decide “whether marijuana use was the major contributing cause of Hopkins’ injuries.” According to court records, Hopkins went to feed the bears, which was part of his job. “He entered the bear pen and began to place food out. Once inside, nothing separated him from the bears. At some point while Hopkins was working, the largest bear, Red, attacked him. The bear knocked Hopkins to the ground, sat on him, and bit his leg, knee and rear-end.” 

The Supreme Court finding echoed the Worker’s Compensation Court, agreeing that “Hopkin’s use of marijuana to kick off a day of working around grizzly bears was ill-advised to say the least and mind-boggling stupid to say the most.” Nonetheless, grizzlies are “equal opportunity maulers,” the court found, and held that Hopkins deserved his compensation. Hear, hear. There’s something to be said for a state that preserves your right to worker’s comp even if you smoke a lot of dope and enter a bear cage with your arms full of edibles. Maybe the medical marijuana people in Montana will name a strain after him: Grizzly Red.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
dirk hanson.jpg

Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]