Even in states with legal recreational or medical cannabis, employers still hold the right to drug test their staff. It’s less about the taboo of hiring people that smoke weed, and more about whether or not someone can do their job while impaired. This, of course, depends largely on the nature of the job, as working retail at a bookstore and operating a forklift in a warehouse are two entirely different things.
Amazon began as an online bookstore and rapidly grew to become the world’s largest online retailer, and the second-largest private employer in the United States. Their exponential growth led founder, Jeff Bezos, to launch a fleet of Amazon-branded delivery vans in 2018. As such a large employer, one must wonder: does Amazon drug test? Let’s take a look at general drug testing policies and where the mega-giant Amazon fits into it all.
Employers Still Drug Test?
Much like cannabis is legalized at a state level (as opposed to federal), drug testing policies are also established and upheld individually by the state. However, there are some industries that the federal government heavily regulates, and these employees do fall under a different lens of scrutiny when it comes to drug testing. This includes military members and staff of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Testing by Private Employers
In many cases, employers can drug test new applicants before hiring. The employer must follow any policies and procedures set forth by the state that are meant to prevent discrimination or alter test results. For example, many states require that the employer clearly state that pre-employment testing is mandatory on the job posting. Additionally, all applicants must take the same type of test and a state-accredited lab must test it.
No applicant is subject to a pre-employment drug test unless they’ve already been offered the job. This is to help prevent discrimination based on test results. Living in a state with legal marijuana does not change the employer’s right to mandate drug testing. However, each employer may decide privately which drugs they test for, meaning they may exclude marijuana from their drug-free workplace policies. Philadelphia is the latest city to pass a law excluding marijuana from pre-employment drug screening.
Drug Testing for Federal Employees
Cannabis is illegal at the federal level, and federal employees are not allowed to use any federally illegal drugs. There is no one policy across the board, and the conditions surrounding drug testing vary by department and job role. Pre-employment drug testing is almost always required, and random drug testing may be called for any time an employer has a reasonable suspicion of drug use.
Examples of reasonable suspicion include someone falling asleep on the job, erratically driving a government vehicle, or any abnormal behavior. This is especially true for anyone working in a position that involves public safety.
States Without Guidelines
A state that does not have a specific policy around drug testing is known as an ‘open state’. States in this category include: New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Washington, Texas, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, and Massachusetts. While working in a state without a defined policy might sound nice, employees actually have less protection here. States that require drug testing must give advance notice, but open states can test randomly without warning.
It’s also important to note that medical marijuana poses different rules for both open and mandatory testing states. Certain circumstances allow medical marijuana patients to be entirely exempt from testing positive from THC, though this depends heavily on the industry and specific job requirements.
Amazon’s Drug Testing Policy
With over 798,000 employees, Amazon certainly has a lot of pot smokers on staff. As an organization, Amazon is also pro-pot and has been pushing for federal legalization for years. As of June 2021, Amazon announced that they would no longer screen applicants for marijuana as a prerequisite for any position.
This doesn’t mean that employees can be impaired on the job, simply that marijuana use outside of work is no longer an issue for anyone looking to work at Amazon. However, reasonable suspicion on the job can still warrant a drug test.
How Does This Affect Delivery Partners?
Drivers delivering Amazon packages are not exactly Amazon employees. When Amazon launched its delivery vans, the intention was to target entrepreneurs all over the country and lease their vans. These second-party companies would receive support from Amazon, including staff uniforms, but they would be running their businesses on their own terms. This includes hiring and managing a team of drivers.
When Amazon announced their change in drug testing, they urged their delivery partners to follow suit, stating that pre-employment drug testing drops their applicants by 30%. Amazon’s delivery partners are torn on the issue. On the one hand, most applicants who fail drug tests fail because of THC, not cocaine and methamphetamines. On the other hand, there are insurance liabilities to consider for employees with marijuana in their system. Since THC can be found in urinalysis for up to a month, a driver doesn’t need to be stoned on the job to cause issues. If they were to crash their van and injure or kill another person, the company (not the driver) would be liable.
Recruiting new drivers is a top concern for all shipping companies as online sales rise with the ongoing pandemic, in addition to holiday shopping. Removing pre-employment drug screens for marijuana is one way to increase the applicant rates. Still, another would be to offer raises for drivers that might compete with similar jobs, like driving a city bus. Package delivery is much more physically demanding and often comes with long, unpredictable hours, whereas city transportation or driving a school bus comes with a more established schedule.
The trade-off for consuming marijuana shouldn’t come with untenable working conditions. The solution? Amazon must increase their pay to their delivery partners to trickle down to workers. While it remains to be seen whether that will happen, it would be a better tactic for Amazon to get their drivers onboard with their new drug testing policy.