Online retail powerhouse Amazon announced on Tuesday that it would support efforts to legalize marijuana at the federal level and would no longer test applicants for most U.S. jobs for cannabis use. The policy changes were announced in a blog post from Amazon CEO Dave Clark that was published by the company on June 1.
In the statement, Clark wrote that company policies were being amended to further the company’s “vision to become Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” a goal announced by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in April. Clark noted that the company has often rejected otherwise qualified job applicants based solely on a positive drug screening for marijuana use. Under the new policy, such screenings will end for most employment positions in the U.S.
“In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use. However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course,” Clark wrote. “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.”
Clark also announced that Amazon would now actively support federal cannabis legalization, including lobbying for legislation that was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week by New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat and chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
“And because we know that this issue is bigger than Amazon, our public policy team will be actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act)—federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities,” Clark continued. “We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law.”
Amazon Also Amends Employee Productivity Policy
Tuesday’s statement from Clark also announced changes to controversial Amazon workplace policies governing employee productivity that many critics say lead to unsafe working conditions and employee dissatisfaction. The policy, known as Time off Task, is designed to track when an employee at an Amazon fulfillment center is logged into the software tools in their work area.
Clark wrote that the primary goal of the Time off Task system is designed to identify operational issues with the technology tools that employees use to complete their work “and only secondarily to identify under-performing employees.” Acknowledging that there are many legitimate reasons for employees to be logged out of their software tools, Clark said that Amazon will revise the way it analyzes and acts on the data collected under the program.
“Starting today, we’re now averaging Time off Task over a longer period to ensure that there’s more signal and less noise—reinforcing the original intent of the program, and focusing Time off Task conversations on how we can help,” wrote Clark. “The goal is to re-focus the conversations on instances where there are likely true operational issues to resolve. We believe this change will help ensure the Time off Task policy is used in the way it was intended.”
Reaction to Clark’s announcement of Amazon’s changes from the cannabis community has been largely positive, although some social media users posited that the company was eliminating a policy that made it difficult to hire while positioning itself to leverage marijuana legalization to its economic advantage.
Ben Kovler, the founder and CEO of multistate cannabis operator Green Thumb Industries, expressed his support for Amazon’s move.
“Change is coming to America. Amazon is a leader and we applaud their progressive common sense approach to cannabis,” Kovler wrote on Twitter.