Amid a Hiring Surge, Amazon Pushes to Legalize Marijuana

Amid a Hiring Surge, Amazon Pushes to Legalize Marijuana Amazon logo Amazon logo. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images)

By Nicole Wells | Thursday, 27 January 2022 12:17 PM

In an unlikely turn of events, Amazon is using its influence within the Beltway to develop bipartisan support to legalize marijuana.

On Tuesday, the tech giant endorsed legislation proposed by Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., to end the federal prohibition on marijuana, which is the first time it has lent support to a GOP-backed bill on the issue, according to Forbes.

If successful, the company's surprising campaign could make it easier to expand its workforce, as it continues a hiring surge, the Washington Post reports.

Coming out in favor of legalization efforts last year, the e-commerce giant has since publicly and privately lobbied for Democratic-led proposals that, like Mace's, would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances.

Amazon is again flexing its political muscle to bring lawmakers from both sides of the aisle together in support of the cause, which the company says could widen its applicant pool by helping ease drug testing requirements and assist with employee retention.

"This is not an issue that Amazon would normally engage on," Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy, told the Post on Tuesday.

While legalization could also open the door to a profitable new market for the company, Huseman said Amazon is not interested in selling the drug.

"There are no plans to sell cannabis and that is not why we're doing this or being involved in this debate," he said.

In the push for legislation, the company’s focus is on removing hiring impediments, which Amazon says disproportionately affect people of color.

"We realized that it was a hindrance to our ability to hire employees," Huseman said.

Amazon's latest endorsement is especially remarkable, given that the bill's sponsor is a one-time Donald Trump campaign worker now making the case that legalizing marijuana is pro-business, states-friendly and anti-big government.

Mace said that the company's endorsement carries weight.

"Having Amazon lean in at this level this early gives this kind of reform great momentum going forward," she said.

Not all legalization proponents believe that the tech giant is a genuine ally, however.

"I’m deeply skeptical that Amazon's lobbying is anything more than a self-interested move to monopolize yet another market, potentially blocking Black and Latino entrepreneurs from an emerging industry," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told the Post.

A staunch critic of the company, Warren has called for Amazon to be broken up.

Given unflinching opposition from some Republicans to the legalization campaign, the company's endorsement doesn't come without political risk.

The chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party — where Mace is from — said in November that "unequivocally, the South Carolina Republican Party is against any effort to legalize, decriminalize the use of controlled substances, and that includes this bill."

But the possibility of backlash isn't discouraging Amazon.

"We do think this policy is the right policy, it's right for the country, it's right for our employees, right for workers, so we're going to push and work on things that we think are good policy, and this is one of them," Huseman said.