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Multinational conglomerate, Amazon, recently announced that it would no longer drug test its employees for cannabis. This is in part because drug testing is shown to disproportionately affect minorities in the U.S.
Amazon announced in June that they will exclude cannabis from their pre-employment drug screening for positions that the Department of Transportation does not regulate. They also reinstated job eligibility for former workers and candidates who they rejected due to cannabis tests performed at random.
In an additional announcement in September, Amazon said:
“We made these changes for a few reasons. First, we recognized that an increasing number of states are moving to some level of cannabis legalization – making it difficult to implement an equitable, consistent, and national pre-employment marijuana testing program. Second, publicly available national data indicates that pre-employment marijuana testing disproportionately impacts people of color and acts as a barrier to employment. And third, Amazon’s pace of growth means that we are always looking to hire great new team members, and we’ve found that eliminating pre-employment testing for cannabis allows us to expand our applicant pool.“
Amazon is not alone in their need to attract workers. In fact, as Deloitte data shows, there’s a worldwide worker shortage. This may motivate employers to eliminate drug testing in an attempt to attract more job candidates, and keep more workers.
Drug-testing acts as a barrier to employment, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Drug-testing regulations, according to the organization, are not only a substantial and unjustified violation of privacy; but they also target people of color and disproportionately affect low-income communities.
“Pre-employment marijuana testing has disproportionately affected communities of color by stalling job placement and, by extension, economic growth,” said Amazon in the statement. “We believe this inequitable treatment is unacceptable.”
Cannabis users have been vilified as disoriented, completely lost-in-their-thoughts couch potatoes for decades. However, recent research from the Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association suggests that not only is that fundamentally incorrect; but that cannabis use and federal legalization may potentially have a net-positive effect on public health.
Cannabis intake boosts exercise and activity levels, according to researchers. The previous belief that using cannabis recreationally and off-the-clock would make a worker unfocused and lazy no longer holds water.
On the other hand, research has long associated alcohol and cigarettes with an increased risk of cancer and a bad influence on work performance, according to a Health Economics Review report. And companies do not monitor off-the-clock usage of those considerably more hazardous drugs.
Furthermore, pre-clinical research published in the Hawai’i Journal of Medicine and Public Health has shown cannabis’ potential usefulness in decreasing anxiety, improving attention, reducing pain and increasing sleep quality, which are beneficial for those who work at high stakes or on legs every workday.
“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,” said Amazon in the statement.
Public Opinion Makes the Difference
Americans are more supportive of cannabis usage and federal legalization than ever before, according to the Pew Research Center. Companies that fail to adapt to these developments in views will lag behind.
“Success and scale bring broad responsibility,” said Amazon in its announcement. “These principles speak to our responsibility to effect change and are our impetus for both driving for societal change and maintaining the right internal policies to ensure a great workplace with equitable and consistent hiring practices for all candidates.”
Pro sports leagues also have made substantial modifications in reaction to evolving attitudes around cannabis. For example, the NBA and NFL have eliminated drug testing for cannabis. MLB also has removed it from their’s list of “Drugs of Abuse”. And minor-league players no longer have to submit to testing. The NHL continues to test for cannabis, but there are no consequences for positive results.
Many tech behemoths, like Microsoft, Google and Apple have also abandoned screening for cannabis, according to Key to Cannabis, a cannabis news website. However, these changes largely favor white-collar employees rather than hourly or blue-collar workers who continue to be subject to distinct sets of regulations even when working for the same organization.
So, the movement to remove federal cannabis prohibition is gathering steam, although slowly. It is up to large employers and corporations to take the lead now. The elimination of archaic screening procedures will benefit their own advantage as well as the welfare of the employees.
We still have a long way to go until there is fairness across the economy and employment spectrum. Nevertheless, every step matters.