Amazon Axes Employee Drug Tests and Says It Will Lobby Congress for Weed Legalization
After getting sued for illegal drug testing practices, the mega-corporation changes its anti-weed policies and announces it will lobby Congress for federal legalization.
Published on June 2, 2021

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It isn’t news that corporate culture is warming up to cannabis, but Amazon’s new policy shift is extremely significant. The mega-corporation just announced that it will stop testing its some 1.3 million employees for marijuana use. Instead, the company will “treat it the same as alcohol use,” as per a post on the company news site. 

The $1.5 trillion company, the second largest private employer in the United States, has managed to defeat recent attempts at unionization in Staten Island, Chicago, Sacramento, Alabama, Minnesota, and recently in Virginia. Its CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, announced in 2020 that he would donate $10 billion to fight climate change — news that was met with skepticism given that his company emits as much carbon dioxide as the entire country of Norway. 

Amazon has also faced criticism in the past for its no-cannabis policies. In 2020, it allegedly canceled the employment of Michael Thomas, a New York resident who had been looking to work as a sorter in a Staten Island warehouse because his drug test came back positive for marijuana use. In New York, it is illegal to test most potential hires for cannabis use.

Previously, the corporation was sued by workers for allegedly terminating the employment of medicinal marijuana users

Amazon currently sells a vast array of CBD products, however, which are obviously made from cannabis.

The company says the decision to stop drug testing is based more on a desire to move with the political winds than any change of heart on personal liberties or inconsistent federal drug policies.

“In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use,” stated the post announcing the policy shift, written by the senior vice president of worldwide operations, Dave Clark. “However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course.”

Nonetheless, the post declares, “we know that this issue is bigger than Amazon,” and the company will now be “actively supporting” the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement [MORE] Act. What they mean by “actively supporting” is throwing money at Congress (otherwise known as lobbying) to push federal legalization through.

The MORE Act legislation is the country’s best shot at legalizing cannabis on a federal level and would give special business loans to cannabis entrepreneurs who have been impacted by War on Drugs policing. 

The change in Amazon’s policy will not apply to positions that are regulated by the Department of Transportation, like truck drivers and heavy equipment operators, who will continue to be tested during the job application process. The shift should give some comfort to other types of potential and current employees who use cannabis off the clock, but the company will continue to test for impairment on the job. 

Change to its marijuana policy was not the only shift announced by Clark in the post. Amazon will also be instituting a new system to track the time workers spend on company software — whose primary purpose will be to identify system malfunctions, Clark says, and “only secondarily to identify under-performing employees.” Even if marijuana testing at the time of hiring is off the table, this “Time off Task” program may well bring up past debates over the way the company that seeks to become “Earth’s Best Employer” surveils its workers

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Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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