In an announcement that took the Internet by storm, a blog post from Amazon stated that the online giant will be “actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act)” and “no longer includ[ing] marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation.”
Read on to learn what this means for medical marijuana patients and Amazon employees alike!
Amazon’s Marijuana Announcement
On June 1, 2021, Dave Clark – senior vice president of Worldwide Operations and CEO of Worldwide Consumer – published a blog post on Amazon titled Update on Our Vision to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.
In addition to providing details on a (non-related) “Time Off Task” policy change, Clark stated:
In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use. However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course.
We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use. We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident.
The post went on to note:
And because we know that this issue is bigger than Amazon, our public policy team will be actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act) – federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities.
We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law.
The announcement sent shockwaves across the news. But now, as the dust settles, many are left asking: What happens next?
What Does Amazon’s Marijuana Statement Mean for Cannabis Sales?
As Leafly reports:
Amazon’s support for cannabis legalization is a big deal. The company employs nearly 1.3 million people worldwide, and this announcement knocks the legs out of the prohibitionist fable that people who enjoy weed on their own time can’t be healthy, happy, and productive workers.
But it also raises the specter of Amazon, post-legalization, eating the cannabis industry’s lunch. The idea of Amazon Prime drones dropping weed on America’s front porches doesn’t just scare old-time prohibitionists. It sends shivers through cannabis retailers, too.
However, while many may worry about a changing cannabis landscape, Leafly notes that alcohol retailers had the same fears in 2017 (when Amazon gained over 330 new liquor licenses across 41 states in its Whole Foods acquisition). As of today, Amazon hasn’t monopolized the alcohol industry – leading Leafly to argue that cannabis retailers should “stop worrying.”
Then again, there are others who question the analogy, noting that unlike alcohol, marijuana is also used medicinally – which may leave consumers more open to shopping on Amazon, much in the same way they purchase other medications and supplements online.
Why Did Amazon Change Their Drug-Testing Policy?
The more immediate focus is on the fallout of Amazon’s drug-testing policy change. Now that Amazon has caught up with the times, will others follow?
As The Dallas Observer notes, Amazon’s timing is interesting:
Just a few months ago, Amazon was sued by an applicant in New York after they were denied a job because they failed a drug test for weed… Michael Thomas was offered a job paying over $17 an hour at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse in November last year. But the company revoked their offer after THC showed up in Thomas’ system.
However, one case is unlikely to sway the Internet’s largest retailer. Other theories point to a more plausible motivation: labor demand.
Amazon, the second largest private employer in the US, is aggressively looking to increase hiring. In April, the giant retailer announced it is adding 75,000 workers across its warehouses and delivery stations. The company has already upped wages to $17 an hour and has doled out one-time perks such as $100 bonuses, as other big businesses like McDonald’s and Chipotle are also raising wages to attract workers amid a tight labor market.
That demand for labor may be encouraging Amazon to drop its barriers for prospective employees.
Regardless of the timing or motivation, medical marijuana patients and cannabis advocates are hopeful that other employers will adjust their drug-testing policies in the wake of Amazon’s big announcement.