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For a variety of reasons, including increasing legalization of marijuana and the pandemic, drug testing policy around the world, and especially in the USA is at a crossroads.
Amazon is central to how this now goes. Not only in the USA, but globally, because of their size and power. So what’s the deal with Amazon’s drug test policy, and how is it changing?
In this piece I’m going to explain exactly why Amazon are important, what their drug test policies are, and what the implications are which have shifted in recent times.
I’ll also discuss a bit about on the job drug testing Amazon, pre-employment drug testing, and how other companies will probably soon follow Amazon’s lead.
Drug Testing & The Marijuana Question
The problem (or opportunity, depending on your view) right now in the USA is the legalization of marijuana.
In many states medicinal marijuana is now completely legal. On top of that, many states are now legalizing it for recreational use.
Right now, 37 states have legalized use of medical marijuana, and 16 states have legalized the use of it recreationally people over the age of 21.
68% of Americans in a Gallup poll were in support of fully legalizing marijuana use across the entire continental USA.
So there has been a complete shift in both views on the use of, and the legality of, cannabis in the USA.
That’s put federal law, where marijuana use is still banned, and some state laws, completely out of touch with the reality on the ground of how it’s seen, and of how many people use it responsibly.
The truth is that eventually marijuana use will probably be completely legalized in the USA at federal level, ignoring the powerful conservative voices.
That is leading to increasing disconnect between reality and drug policy at company level.
How can you sack someone who was turned up for work completely able to do and not under the influence’s cannabis, for failing a drug test?
It’s not impacting on their job, it’s not impacting on your company reputation, and it’s not actually illegal. All you are doing sacking a valuable employee for no reason whatsoever.
Plus, the cost of drug testing is escalating. It’s a multibillion dollar industry. How long will companies in this current pandemic environment keep throwing good money over bad to get rid of the small number of employees who are not causing any damage to the company’s productivity or reputation?
Why Is Amazon So Important To Drug Testing?
Amazon is so important to this whole issue because it’s such a massive employer.
In the USA alone Amazon currently employs around 1.3 million people, plus nearly a million more indirectly. Around the world, it’s tens of millions.
Plus, those direct employees, the delivery people, the people managing the website and the supply chain, everything, also form a large part of the living of many self-employed people and businesses who sell through Amazon as well.
So what Amazon does with drug testing, in terms of its attitude, how many people it gets rid of who are otherwise good employees, is vital for both Amazon, drug test policy across the USA, and millions of people’s livelihoods.
As the second largest employer in the US (private employer), at a time when the pandemic has made shopping online skyrocket, Amazon has to recruit very aggressively.
There simply aren’t the people with skills out there to do everything they need. So it makes little sense to Amazon to start paying millions of dollars a year on drug test in order to sack those people they have spent the time recruiting, simply because they smoked a joint at the weekend.
Just recently, Amazon announced in the USA it was improving warehouse worker coverage by 75,000 people. That’s just in the USA, and there are recruitment campaigns for drivers, pickers, and other supply chain staff around the world.
The company is also in the USA now paying an average of $17 an hour as its basic rate, plus bonuses for employment and good performance. That’s well ahead of people like McDonald’s and other areas of the low skilled employment market.
As you can see, it makes absolutely zero sense for Amazon to start paying millions of dollars a year to get rid of these people they are desperately trying to employee, train, and then keep happy under very demanding circumstances.
What’s Happening With Applicant Screening At Amazon?
Amazon has just changed its application process. It will no longer do pre-employment drug tests that look for marijuana in most positions.
The only exceptions to this are jobs that are regulated by the Department of transportation (DoT), where it’s legally mandated. This is mostly the heavy truck drivers and similar jobs.
So the truth is that although you may have a drug test prior to being recruited by Amazon, it’s not going to look for marijuana metabolites.
That’s a victory for common sense, and it means that people who are enjoying a joint at the weekend are not penalized five days later when they go for a job Amazon.
It’s already leading to a change in other companies as well. It’s a more liberal approach to recruiting people, which will hopefully lead to the antiquated 90s drug testing culture, backed up by a multibillion dollar drug testing industry, starts to habits grip loosened.
What About On-The-Job Drug Testing At Amazon?
The change is also happening with on-the-job drug test as well.
The company stated that cannabis will be treated in the same way as alcohol. If you turn up impaired, then you could face a drug or alcohol test.
Also, as is common and probably sensible, if you are in an accident or part of an incident, and there is reasonable suspicion it’s been caused by impairment, then you could also be tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol.
So it doesn’t mean that this is the removal of drug testing policy by Amazon. It is a first step in recognizing the changing social use and attitude towards cannabis as an individual drug, and it’s starting to be looked at in the same way as alcohol the both social use, and impacts on the workplace.
This Is Why What Happens At Amazon Is So Important
There are several key reasons why what is happening Amazon is so important both in the USA, and globally.
Firstly, it’s a more lenient attitude to drug use. I don’t mean turning up for work drunk or high, I don’t mean irresponsible ongoing use.
But when drug metabolites can last in the body for many days, it’s obviously a ludicrous situation when all the investment is lost through one failed drug test.
Even worse, that that person’s reputation and future job prospects are damaged because of the failed drug test simply from having a joint as long as five days previously. The entire situation is insanity, and if it hadn’t been driven by conservative lawmakers and a powerful drug testing industry, it would never have lasted this long.
So you may hate Amazon for what it’s doing to retail, the environment, human rights, and many other things, but in forcing a ridiculous industry and support interfacing the new reality, it’s done incredibly well.
There’s a second point here. If Amazon remove marijuana testing, they are condoning it’s use.
As the biggest retailer and delivery network globally now, what do you think will happen if marijuana is legalized at federal level? Hell, what you think is going to happen in the states where it’s already legalized?
That’s right, the biggest retail and delivery business could well get in on the act. If cannabis proves to be accepted, then why not have it delivered to your door after ordering on Amazon?
You can do it with other medicinal herbs and supplements, so why not with cannabis if it’s legalized?
It’s just another consumer product at that point, something confirmed by Uber recently as well.
They have stated officially already that they want to get into delivering cannabis if it is fully legalized at federal level.
Smell The Future
So the big companies are already positioning themselves to make money from legalized cannabis, at least in the USA.
That means it’s only a matter of time before cannabis is going to be removed from most employer’s drug testing. If not, those employers are going to be at risk of losing very good employees who are doing nothing wrong at all from leaving or being fired to go to companies with a more progressive drug policy.
I’ll finish though by saying that those progressive drug policies appear in the case of Amazon and Uber to be mostly driven by a cynical desire to cash in on impending legalization, regardless of evidence of long-term mental health damage, or acting as a gateway drug.
You may not agree with any of either of those arguments, but the fact they are debatable issues shows how far things are shifting that companies like Amazon are considering ditching drug testing policies in order to cash in on what have been up to now illegal narcotics.