Why Amazon is backing away from drug testing employees for weed

Those applying for fulfillment jobs will no longer be tested for marijuana.
Those applying for fulfillment jobs will no longer be tested for marijuana.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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Amazon will no longer screen most job applicants for marijuana use—including those applying for positions in customer fulfillment and delivery stations—as part of its drug screening program, the giant retailer announced yesterday (June 1).

For jobs that are not regulated by the US Department of Transportation, cannabis use will instead be treated the same as alcohol use, said Dave Clark, the head of Amazon’s global consumer, in a blog post. Amazon will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident, he added.

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.

Amazon is dropping barriers for new employees

That demand for labor may be encouraging Amazon to drop its barriers for prospective employees. Most Americans now or soon will have legal access to marijuana. To date, 37 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 16 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational marijuana for adults over age 21. A Gallup survey last year found that a record-high 68% of Americans supported legalizing marijuana.

Company drug testing of employees was popular in the 90s, but has declined over the years, in part because there’s little evidence it deters drug use.

While cannabis is not legal on the federal level, Amazon is pushing for federal legalization of weed; in the blog post, Amazon said its public policy team will support the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act), which aims to legalize marijuana at the federal level and clear prior convictions, as well as tax cannabis products at 5% to fund criminal and social reform projects.

Along with taking a broader approach to hiring, the blog post—written by Amazon’s consumer boss—raises the question of whether the company is looking to get into the weed delivery business. The delivery of just about everything has become mainstream due in part to the pandemic, so cannabis may become just one more consumer product for sale on Amazon. Just a couple of months ago, Uber said it wants to get into cannabis delivery, once federal regulation is passed.