Do Amazon’s New Marijuana Rules Indicate Tech Industry Progress?

Tech giant Amazon has announced its interest in relaxing its hiring rules in regards to marijuana usage.
Duncan Lambden

Amazon has announced its intention to relax screening policies in regard to marijuana when hiring new workers. This will increase the size of its potential hiring pool, allowing for more warehouse workers.

Amazon has also revealed its intention to lobby the government to legalise recreational marijuana, after stating in June that it supports the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act.

As a leader in both the tech industry and business as a whole, Amazon may be setting a significant precedent when it comes to company's personality toward recreational drug use, and this, coupled with its intention for carbon neutrality, is a sign of the company's efforts to become one of the more progressive tech giants.

Why Is Amazon Changing the Rules?

In a recent blog post, Amazon announced that it will be heavily relaxing its drug rules for both incoming hires, and previously fired employees. Amazon has cited a few reasons for this, claiming that they aim to expand its applicant pool, improve diversity within the country, and keep up with the increasing country-wide legalization.

“Pre-employment marijuana testing has disproportionately affected communities of color by stalling job placement and, by extension, economic growth, and we believe this inequitable treatment is unacceptable”

Many of Amazon's previously fired employees may have been perfectly acceptable workers that were fired over a technicality due to its drug tests. This new rule may allow those employees to be hired back.

Amazon is also intending to lobby the US government to push for country-wide legalization. Marijuana legality varied from state to state, but legalization on a federal level would mean that Amazon, as well as other country-wide businesses, don't need to change its drug rules based on each state.

Given our previous support for legalizing cannabis at the federal level, as well as expunging certain criminal records and investing in impacted businesses and communities, Amazon recently announced our support for, and began actively lobbying on, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act).

What Is the Response to Amazon?

While Amazon is, of course, framing this as an altruistic decision with some business opportunities on top, Amazon's public image and history has lead many to believe that there are a few insidious reasons behind this decision.

Firstly, while Amazon has made no public mention of this, many people think that the company is looking to get into marijuana delivery. Marijuana is a massive industry, and the ability for Amazon to deliver in every state would mean yet another massive influx of cash.

Secondly, while Amazon is stating that this decision will help those who have previously been fired get back on their feet, some think that this is a sign of desperation for blue collar workers. Amazon is known to burn through many packing and delivery workers, so they may be at the point where they're running low on potential hires. This legalization would open up a large section of the population.

Just last month, Amazon revealed an initiative for UK warehouse staff to earn an extra $69 a week, simply for turning up on time. Another sign that the company may be struggling to retain and motivate the staff it has.

What Does This Mean for Other Tech Companies?

While this is a big step for Amazon, a huge company in both the tech and retail world, it may not mean massive progress for other tech companies. This is because marijuana usage is already very normalized within tech. In fact, the FBI actually struggles to hire cyber security experts and hackers due to the fact that most of them can't pass FBI drug screenings.

In 1996, California, home of Silicon Valley and arguably the most significant tech hub in America, legalized medical marijuana usage. They then legalized recreational marijuana usage in 2016, meaning that the state is already well acquainted with the drug.

For non-tech companies, however, this might lead to substantial developments in their acceptance of recreational drugs. Many blue collar jobs, specifically in retail, service, and warehouse positions, have strict drug rules, banning those who partake in marijuana usage. However, if one of the biggest businesses in the world is starting to relax on these rules, as well as lobbying for country-wide legalization, it may pressure other businesses to follow suit.

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Duncan (BA in English Textual Studies and Game Design) is an Australian-born writer for Tech.Co. His articles focus on website builders, and business software that allows small businesses to improve their efficiency or reach, with an emphasis on digital marketing or accounting. He has written for Website Builder Expert and MarTech Series, and has been featured in Forbes. In his free time, Duncan loves to deconstruct video games, which means that his loved ones are keenly concerned about he amount of time he spends looking at screens.

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