When Leafly and Headset co-founder Cy Scott heard the news about Amazon relaxing its marijuana testing standards for job applicants while backing federal legalization efforts, two thoughts immediately came to mind:
Amazon needs people. Amazon wants market share.
“I think fundamentally it’s about hiring,” said the founder of two cannabis-centric companies. “It’s really hard for them to hire given that a majority of Americans live in markets where cannabis is legal — and a significant majority when you add in medical cannabis. Frankly, it’s hard for them to hire around that.”
He added: “And it is also hard to ignore a potential emerging market.”
Last week, Amazon announced it is backing federal legislation that would legalize marijuana and that the company will stop screening applicants for use of the drug in certain job classifications. As a rationale for the sudden change of policy about pot use, Dave Clark, CEO Worldwide Consumer, noted that the country is changing its attitude about pot.
“However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course,” Clark wrote in a blog post announcing the switch. “We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation…”
But cannabis industry experts along with attorneys who handle workplace issues believe there is something deeper afoot.
Hiring under zero-tolerance policies was difficult even prior to marijuana legalization. More than a decade ago when it faced a dearth of recruits, the FBI famously rescinded its policy which barred applicants who had once smoked pot.
Facing similarly shrinking recruitment pools, many local police departments also had quietly been reversing similar policies for years. Then came the first wave of medical marijuana exemptions, followed by the first recreational pot legalization initiatives in 2012 in Washington