Published 9:17 AM EDT Sep 7, 2018
Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared to smoke marijuana briefly on camera during a podcast appearance, fueling critics who say that his behavior is becoming increasingly concerning and erratic.
Separately, Tesla revealed that its chief accounting officer has resigned after less than a month on the job, raising further concerns about the company's leadership stability.
Concerned investors drove Tesla shares down 7.7 percent in pre-market trading to $259.35.
In a wide-ranging late-night interview with Joe Rogan that was live-streamed online, Musk took a puff from what the popular podcast host described as "marijuana inside of a tobacco."
"You ever had that?" Rogan asked.
"Yeah, I think I tried one once," Musk replied.
Rogan found Musk's response dubious. "You probably can't because of stockholders, right?"
"I mean, it's legal right?" Musk said.
It's legal under California law, but federal law still considers it a crime.
"Totally legal," Rogan responded, handing Musk the joint. "How does that work? Do people get upset at you if you do certain things?"
Musk shrugged but said nothing.
The exchange, which came near the end of an interview that lasted more than two and a half hours, illustrates Musk's generally carefree approach.
Critics say his behavior has become reckless and that Musk should focus on running Tesla, which is facing intense pressure to speed up electric-vehicle production. They say his questionable public persona culminated in his dubious claim on Twitter last month that he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is now probing that assertion, and Musk quickly backtracked on the plan.
Tesla Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton resigned Tuesday, according to a Tesla public filing Friday morning.
"Since I joined Tesla on August 6th, the level of public attention placed on the company, as well as the pace within the company, have exceeded my expectations," Morton said in a statement released by Tesla. "As a result, this caused me to reconsider my future. I want to be clear that I believe strongly in Tesla, its mission, and its future prospects, and I have no disagreements with Tesla’s leadership or its financial reporting.”
Tesla has long faced frequent executive turnover as the company faces intense pressure to succeed. Musk has defended the pressure-cooker atmosphere as necessary to preserve the company.
Supporters say that Musk is a brilliant innovator and leader who has succeeded because specifically of his willingness to buck convention in an industry that's stuck in its ways.
Tesla representatives were not immediately available for comment Friday morning.
The company's stock was down 0.7 percent to $278.87 in pre-market trading. The shares have declined more than $100 in the aftermath of the go-private dalliance.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.