As employers struggle to find qualified workers, Amazon is recommending that its small-business partners that operate delivery vans stop testing drivers for marijuana use, according to Bloomberg.
“Pre-employment marijuana testing has disproportionately affected communities of color by stalling job placement and, by extension, economic growth. We believe this inequitable treatment is unacceptable,” an Amazon spokeswoman told SHRM Online. “We remain committed to the safety of our employees and the general public and our policy on zero tolerance for impairment while working has not changed.”
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Mixed Reactions from Business Partners
One Amazon delivery partner said she now only tests for drugs like opiates and amphetamines, and more drivers pass the screening process. Other delivery company owners, however, say they plan to continue screening applicants. “If one of my drivers crashes and kills someone and tests positive for marijuana, that’s my problem, not Amazon’s,” said one business partner.
Shortage of Truck Drivers
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the truck transportation industry lost 6 percent of labor force during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the industry recovered some jobs as of July, a shortage remains compared to employment levels in February 2020. “The driver situation is about as bad as I’ve ever seen in my career,” Eric Fuller, chief executive officer of U.S. Xpress, told Yahoo Finance.
Amazon Still Monitoring for Impairment
A spokesperson told Business Insider that Amazon employees who show signs of impairment while working will face serious consequences. “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,” they said.
Amazon Dropped Marijuana Screening in June
The retail giant announced in June that it was adjusting its drug-testing policy for U.S. field operations teams and would no longer screen for marijuana in many circumstances. “In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use,” said Amazon retail executive Dave Clark. “However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course. We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug-screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use.”
Testing Doesn’t Show Impairment
Dr. Barry Sample, director of science and technology for employer solutions at Quest Diagnostics, noted that tests only show whether someone has used marijuana—not if that individual is under the influence. “What you need to remember is it doesn’t matter if it’s urine, oral fluid or hair testing—it just reflects use,” he says. “It doesn’t inform you whether someone was impaired or what their usage patterns are.”
Marijuana is the most commonly used Schedule I drug in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with approximately 37.6 million users per year. A wide range of U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, despite its continuing illegality at the federal level.
How Evolving Marijuana Laws Impact the Workplace
President Joe Biden supports marijuana decriminalization, but efforts to legalize cannabis consumption are likely to continue at the state level for now. In 2021, employers will need to review their policies and ensure that they comply with evolving laws, particularly those covering medical marijuana patients.