Amazon Won't Screen Employees for Marijuana Use, Will Back Federal Legalization

Amazon CEO Dave Clark said Tuesday that the company will no longer screen most of its employees for marijuana use, and it will back federal legalization legislation.

"We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation," Clark said in a blog post on Amazon's website. The change in policy comes as a response to "where state laws are moving across the U.S.," Clark said.

Amazon also pledged to throw its considerable weight behind marijuana legalization on a countrywide scale, saying the company would 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."

The MORE Act, which was reintroduced to the House last month by Democrat Jerry Nadler from New York, would not only make recreational cannabis use legal in the entire United States, and work to release inmates incarcerated because of non-violent marijuana-related offenses, it would also attempt to address racial inequities in the way existing marijuana laws have been enforced.

"It is truly a sign of marijuana legalization's near universal mainstream acceptance when even one of America's largest corporations is willing to publicly declare that our prohibition has been a failure and that we need for our country to move towards a new approach," Erik Altieri, the Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Newsweek.

"It is long overdue that Congress acts to bring our laws in line with sound public policy and the will of the overwhelming majority of its citizens. Legalization is far removed from its days as a fringe issue and is now as American as apple pie, our federal officials must finally acknowledge that reality and pass the MORE Act," he added.

Amazon CEO Dave Clark said Tuesday that the company will no longer screen most of its employees for marijuana use, and it will back federal legalization legislation. Here is an image of Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, Washington. David Ryder/Getty

According to a 2020 report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Black people are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in the United States.

The bill includes a 5 percent tax on retail marijuana sales that would pay into the Opportunity Trust Fund that would pay for services like job training, re-entry, and health services, aimed at helping communities that have been impacted by generational unjust enforcement of the war on drugs.

"The whole intention and vision behind this bill is that it would repair past harms of drug prohibition," said Maritza Perez, national affairs director at the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit working to reform drug laws. "We're hoping that another successful House vote would continue to pile on momentum," she told NBC News.

The MORE Act was passed by Congress once before in December 2020 but never received a vote in a Republican-controlled Senate. The bill will likely reach Senate later in 2021, and will be received by a Democratic majority this time. It will be backed by Leader Schumer of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon. All three of these Democratic senators' states have approved recreational cannabis.

In 2020 recreational marijuana sales totaled about $20 billion, and are expected to reach more than twice that, according to research cited in the bill.

"We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law," Clark said in the Amazon blog post.

It is not clear if the bill will have sufficient backing to pass the Senate.

Update (6/2/2021, 4:30 p.m.): This article has been updated to include comment from Erik Altieri from NORML.