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Amazon & Other Companies Ending Marijuana Drug Testing to Cope with Worker Shortage

Amazon and several major American companies have decided to end marijuana drug testing to cope with worker shortages.

Cannabis legalization has swept the nation. It has made the enjoyment of cannabis more popular than ever in this new era of openness. Thus, some companies have realized the error of refusing to hire an otherwise qualified job candidate.

“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,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Paul Armentano said.

Many people have been using cannabis products to cope with the unexpected stress of the pandemic. Cannabis sales soared in 2020 and 2021. They increased 46 percent to $17.5 billion overall since it was deemed essential in many states.

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely contributing to the end of marijuana drug testing. Workers laid off due to the pandemic collected more unemployment than they otherwise would have been able to. Thus, many have been using that money to stay safe at home, reevaluate their situation, and enjoy time off.

Amazon Stops Marijuana Drug Testing

Amazon is one of the most prominent companies to have reversed its position on marijuana drug testing. Since it was safer to buy products from Amazon, they had a surge in business. Thus they needed even more workers.

Concurrent with pandemic issues, Amazon’s workplace policies are not appealing. According to a study, Amazon hourly employees had a turnover rate of about 150 percent.  The report said 350,000 workers started and quit working for Amazon between July and October 2020. Amazon has also strenuously fought efforts to enact a labor union that would improve working conditions. It was only after massive protests and pressure that Amazon began raising its wages and offering a few other benefits.

The fact that a medical cannabis patient in New Jersey won a lawsuit against Amazon after he was fired for testing positive for THC may have also factored into their decision.

Thus, Amazon has decided to ended marijuana drug testing in the hopes of finding eligible workers. Amazon Senior Vice President of Human Resources Beth Galetti said they are in favor of legalization as a strategy to hire more otherwise qualified workers.

“Eliminating pre-employment testing for marijuana allows us to expand our applicant pool,” she said. 

Concurrent with their support of legalization, Amazon has already spent at least $5 million on cannabis legalization lobbying,

With the announcement that Amazon would support legalization, many are wary of them entering the cannabis industry. Longtime advocates and businesspeople are similarly wary of Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, and other companies entering the marijuana industry and dominating it.

Amazon is not the only major company struggling to find people to work in their blue-collar jobs.  According to the Detroit Free Press, the automaker General Motors is facing the same issue. Those who accept their meager wage cannot pass marijuana drug testing. It’s especially relevant since Michigan legalized medical cannabis reform in 2008 and an adult-use cannabis referendum in 2018. The restaurant industry overall is having an especially hard time finding workers.

According to a survey done by the temp agency Manpower, nine percent of the companies surveyed decided to eliminate marijuana drug testing. It was the least popular option after offering skills training, flexible work schedules, more money, working remotely, joining bonuses, offering benefits like vacation, and lowering job requirements.

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