On June 2, Amazon announced they would stop testing job applicants for marijuana use. “In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use,” the company said via blog post. “However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course.” Amazon will still test delivery drivers and other positions under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation, and they reserve their right to test after accidents or suspicious incidents.
While cannabis advocates applaud the announcement, the gesture was likely borne from Amazon’s wallet more than their bleeding hearts. Amazon has begun hiring to staff their new east coast headquarters in Virginia, where cannabis decriminalization goes into effect July 1. They have also resurrected plans for a regional facility in New York, where recreational use was legalized in March. Acting now to eliminate marijuana from drug screenings will streamline the hiring and expansion processes for a company that profited enormously during the pandemic.
Employment and Cannabis Consumption
According to Quest Diagnostics, positive tests for marijuana have steadily increased since 2016, including an increase of 59% in states where the drug remains illegal. Cannabis advocates argue that those numbers represent America’s changing attitude toward marijuana, and are praising Amazon for helping to establish a new precedent. As it’s been widely noted, even the FBI was forced to relax their cannabis hiring policies.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) released a statement shortly afterward praising the move, saying, “It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.” But perhaps more praise came for Amazon’s clarion endorsement of the MORE Act.
Amazon Supports Cannabis Related Banking Reform
In addition to eliminating THC testing, the nation’s second largest private employer also formally endorsed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was reintroduced to the House of Representatives last week. The bill, sponsored by New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, would decriminalize cannabis nationwide, expunge cannabis convictions from legal records, and reinvest a portion of the tax revenue into communities most affected by decades of prohibition.
The MORE Act passed the House of Representatives in December, but was ignored by the Senate. It will likely pass this new Congress again, but awaits defiant opposition from Senate Republicans, who are now offering their own diluted reforms.
The Republican’s “Common Sense Cannabis Reform” Act contains no language about expunging prior drug offenses from legal records, or reinvesting resources in affected communities, two items which have been at the forefront of other reform initiatives.
Recreational cannabis is legal in 17 states and DC, and registered patients have access to medicinal cannabis in 37 states. Amazon is based in Washington state, where cannabis prohibition ended in 2012.
Regardless of what inspired the policy change, such a public move will inevitably advance discussions surrounding cannabis use and its relation to employment.
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