Amazon announced on Tuesday that it is lobbying the federal government to pass a bill that would deschedule and tax weed, making it federally legal in states that have already legalized cannabis. The company also said it would continue to support legislation that would expunge marijuana offenses from people who have been previously convicted of cannabis-related crimes.
The move comes after several policy changes at Amazon designed to help the behemoth hire workers who use cannabis. This summer, Amazon announced that it would not test for marijuana as part of its job screening process. The company also began explicitly advertising that it would not test applicants for marijuana use, a move that Bloomberg reported increased the number of job applications for some positions by as much as 400 percent.
The company is officially lobbying for the passage of two pieces of legislation, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021, which was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year but has not been taken up in the Senate. Earlier this month, the company sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to “support removing cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act. Doing so will open significant new economic opportunities for millions of capable individuals while beginning to restore some of the damage done to highly affected communities.”
In a blog post published Tuesday, Amazon wrote that “Amazon’s pace of growth means that we are always looking to hire great new team members, and we’ve found that eliminating pre-employment testing for cannabis allows us to expand our applicant pool” and that it has “reinstated the employment eligibility for former employees and applicants who were previously terminated or deferred during random or pre-employment marijuana screenings.”
Amazon cites research that pre-employment marijuana screenings disproportionately affects people of color and stated that, with many states legalizing marijuana, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a standardized hiring policy on marijuana use. The announcement comes amid a national hiring crunch in which employers around the country are having trouble hiring for many positions unless they pay a living wage, which should shock no one.
Amazon, the country’s second-largest employer, has become the largest company to explicitly advocate for marijuana legalization, and now has one of the more progressive policies on employee cannabis use.
That said, Amazon is a company that is obsessed with efficiency and its bottom line, and its lobbying sounds good for workers (and sometimes is good for workers), but is ultimately self-serving. Amazon has lobbied to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and pays its warehouse workers at least $15 per hour. That’s higher than many retail or fast food jobs, but lower than industry standards for warehouse work.
Loosening its marijuana screening restrictions makes it easier to hire, and makes Amazon a more enticing workplace for cannabis users. Loosening restrictions on marijuana use does not, however, do anything to change some of the brutal working conditions, which include AI-powered surveillance of delivery drivers, efficiency quotas for warehouse workers and delivery drivers, and a strict disciplinary system that penalizes workers for “time off task.”
Many industries that ban employees from using cannabis have found it increasingly hard to hire; famously, the FBI has said it could not find enough hackers to hire because so many use marijuana. In 2017, the agency said it had somehow found a way to hire enough hackers who don’t smoke weed.
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