Amazon isn’t exactly known for its commitment to employee wellbeing. Earlier this month, six U.S. senators called for an investigation into whether it adequately protects pregnant warehouse workers. The company has also come under fire for skimming drivers’ tips, setting expectations so demanding that drivers have no choice but to pee in bottles, and union busting. But now, in an apparent departure from its reputation as a callous corporate behemoth, Amazon is lobbying for weed legalization in order to eliminate pre-employment testing requirements for cannabis, Gizmodo reported.
In a blog post yesterday, Beth Galletti, Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources, announced the company’s endorsement of two pieces of cannabis reform legislation: The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act) and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.
Per Gizmodo, the MORE Act would decriminalize weed at the federal level by removing it from the list of controlled substances, establish investment programs for communities impacted by the War on Drugs, and expunge criminal records. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler introduced the bill, which passed the House last year but languished in the Senate, controlled by the GOP at the time. He reintroduced a modified bill in May.
Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker, and other leading Democrats, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would aim to legalize and regulate cannabis, according to Gizmodo. Specifically, it would funnel funds to state governments to go toward clearing criminal records of weed-related convictions at the state level.
Amazon’s support of these bills falls in line with its announcement in June that it would no longer include cannabis in its pre-employment drug screenings, except for truck drivers and other positions regulated by the Department of Transportation, per Gizmodo. Galletti also blogged that former employees and applicants who’d been terminated or deferred based on pre-employment screenings for weed would be eligible for employment.
She explained that Amazon made these changes, firstly, because of the challenges of running a national pre-employment marijuana screening program when cannabis laws differ from state to state. Also, such testing has an outsized impact on people of color. Last but not least, removing the screening requirement would widen the company’s applicant pool. “We are always looking to hire great new team members,” Galletti wrote, adding that supporting cannabis reform is part of Amazon's goal to become "Earth's Best Employer."
While Amazon’s professed commitment to social equity sounds promising, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Having more applicants to choose from would ultimately benefit the company, and, as Gizmodo pointed out, supporting weed legalization — though a popular way to score cool points — doesn’t absolve it of its shitty labor practices.
Also, one can’t help but wonder whether Amazon throwing its weight behind these bills is part of a larger plan to start delivering weed. Experts told Forbes that the risk wouldn’t be worth the effort. But in an op-ed, Leafly senior editor Bruce Barcott said he believes Amazon will sell cannabis, or at least try to — although because weed will remain tightly regulated even if it does become federally legal, the company probably won’t put dispensaries out of business. I mean, it’s hard to imagine Amazon not wanting a piece of the multibillion-dollar legal cannabis market.
I’m only speculating here. My point is, given Amazon’s track record, we might want to take its apparently progressive stance on weed with a heaping tablespoon of salt.