Amazon is urging the fleets of contract delivery drivers that get packages to its customers to advertise themselves as 4/20-friendly employers, according to Bloomberg.
Opinion polls have shown majority support for marijuana legalization for years, and that support is now overwhelming, with one survey this year showing over 90% support for legalization in one form or another. Amazon first announced it would stop screening most job applicants for marijuana use, save for Department of Transportation-regulated jobs like heavy machinery operators and truck drivers, in June 2021 as it expanded hiring footprint in weed-legal states including New York and Virginia. Bloomberg reported that correspondence between Amazon and the third-party entities that operate its blue delivery vans, as well as interviews with four owners, show it is also advising them to explicitly advertise that it does not screen for marijuana use in job listings. In one message, Amazon claimed that can increase the number of applicants by 400% while screening for marijuana cuts the applicant pool by 30%.
One of the delivery partners told Bloomberg they had stopped screening for marijuana due to high rates of testing failure and now focus on methamphetamine and opioids. However, another delivery partner told the network insurance and liability concerns were a reason to continue drug testing regardless, adding, “If one of my drivers crashes and kills someone and tests positive for marijuana, that’s my problem, not Amazon’s.”
Low-wage workers were hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and jobs in that category are down by double-digit percentages relative to the start of the pandemic. Employers have reported difficulty filling roles in recent months, often blaming expanded federal and state unemployment benefits (which has been debunked by countless studies, and the benefits are set to expire imminently anyhow).
As CNBC reported, one cause is likely that the hiring surge after most states loosened pandemic restrictions has resulted in a more competitive job market where workers are less inclined to take the first awful job that comes along. That’s coupled with the understandable reluctance to return to roles with a high risk of contracting the virus or that can’t pay for things like childcare. The most obvious solution is paying workers more; while CNBC noted many employers have felt their hands forced by lingering openings, U.S. businesses are broadly desperate to avoid raising wages.
Working at Amazon as a delivery driver is a notoriously bad job rife with labor abuses and constant surveillance, and as Bloomberg observed, the company is infamously slow to agree to higher delivery rates that might enable contract fleets to raise wages. While not testing for marijuana use is certainly welcome in the sense that it conflicts less with basic human decency, it seems like a convenient short-term workaround for not just making the jobs less of a hellhole.
A company spokesperson told Bloomberg that marijuana testing disproportionately affects minority communities. They added, “If a delivery associate is impaired at work and tests positive post-accident or due to reasonable suspicion, that person would no longer be permitted to perform services for Amazon.”