In a message to the company’s U.S. operations employees, Dave Clark—Amazon’s CEO of Worldwide Consumer—pointed to the still-growing number of states who have enacted varying levels of marijuana legalization as a key inspiration for the decision.
“In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use,” Clark said in the message, which was also shared in a public blog post. “However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course. We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use. We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident.”
Per Clark, Amazon’s public policy team will also be “actively supporting” the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021, which congressional leaders reintroduced in May.
Reached by email for comment on Wednesday, Paul Armentano—the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)—said Amazon’s decision marks “a reflection of today’s changing cultural landscape.” Armentano also noted the fact that suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace has never been a policy based on evidence:
“This decision is a reflection of today’s changing cultural landscape. Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace, such as pre-employment drug screening, is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy. Rather, this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. 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. Several states, like Nevada and New York, have moved in this direction—as have numerous cities, like Atlanta and Philadelphia—and it is no surprise to see major employers moving in this same, common-sense direction.”
At the federal level, and for those in hardline conservative states who have remained reluctant to enact sensible marijuana policies, the battle continues. As NORML’s political director Justin Strekal explained last month, President Biden’s recently proposed government budget consists of both positive and negative developments on the marijuana policy front.