Amazon says “time has come” for U.S. to legalize marijuana

Amazon is calling on the U.S. government to legalize marijuana, saying it is urging Congress to pass federal legislation and catch up with the growing number of states that have decriminalized cannabis use.

The commerce giant also said that screening job applicants for cannabis makes it hard for the company, the nation’s second-biggest private employer, to expand its workforce.

“We strongly believe the time has come to reform the nation’s cannabis policy, and we are committed to helping lead the effort,” Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources, wrote Tuesday in a post on the company’s blog. “Today’s status quo is unfair and untenable,” added Galetti, who noted the difficulty for companies in creating cannabis rules for workers given the discrepancy between federal law and local statutes.

Connecticut in June became the 19th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Most Americans support a similar policy in their state, a CBS News poll found earlier this year.

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Amazon is lobbying for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021, a House bill that would end the federal ban on marijuana. The company also supports the recently introduced Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a similar bill proposed in the Senate.

“Pre-employment marijuana testing disproportionately impacts people of color and acts as a barrier to employment,” Galetti wrote. “We’ve found that eliminating pre-employment testing for cannabis allows us to expand our applicant pool,” she added of the company’s June decision to scrap marijuana testing in hiring and firing

Amazon earlier this month said it was hiking its average starting wage to $18 for 125,000 new hires in transportation and warehouse positions. The wage hike came as many employers struggle to hire new workers amid a pandemic-induced labor shortage

Amazon has opened more than 250 warehouses, sorting centers, regional air hubs and delivery stations in the U.S. so far this year, and will open more than 100 buildings in September alone, according to the company. It’s hired more than 450,000 people in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, and currently employs 750,000 hourly workers across the U.S.