Will Amazon Lobby for the Federal Legalization of Cannabis?
Legalizing cannabis and decriminalizing marijuana once and for all have become prominent political debates. After the 2020 election cycle, five U.S. states passed cannabis initiatives. More states are introducing cannabis-related agendas every year, and as consumers, we can guess where this trend is heading: the total federal legalization of weed.
Remember the Controlled Substances Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, labeled cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic next to other substances like LSD and heroin. In 2018, the Farm Bill removed hemp and CBD products from this narcotic classification, but marijuana – another plant grouped under the term "cannabis" – remained illegal.
So, where does Amazon come into the picture? As you may already know, marijuana has faced an intrepid history. It may be one of the most controversial plants on the planet. And up until last month, Amazon fired employees over drug screenings that came back positive for marijuana use. The company said as much in a recent newsletter, announcing Amazon's intentions to change course on marijuana policies at the e-commerce giant.
What Did Amazon's Newsletter Say?
For starters: No, Amazon will not begin selling marijuana. At least not yet. However, Amazon employees will no longer be reprimanded for marijuana use off-the-clock. According to the announcement, "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."
That's good news for both current and future Amazon employees! However, some critics claim that the move is so Amazon can expand its employee prospects. Recent news headlines have criticized the company for its unjust treatment of workers.
Outside of new drug screening regulations, Amazon also publicly announced its support for The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, also known as the MORE Act, introduced this year. No megacorporation has thrown their weight behind the federal legalization of weed as much as this. However, Amazon's intentions are still unknown. We do not know if the e-commerce giant wishes to pave the way for the online retail sale of cannabis products, with Amazon at the forefront. In the past, they've publicly condemned the sale of CBD products on their platform, all while allowing shady, poorly-marketed CBD products to continue selling.
Amazon Gives Support, but Not Dollars
The way we see it, there are both pros and cons to Amazon's decision to begin supporting the federal legalization of weed. The end of federal prohibition is long overdue, and if Amazon's lobbying power goes toward cannabis reform, we're all for it. According to POLITICO, Amazon was one of the top lobbying spenders in 2020, giving up $17.9 million to lobby lawmakers in Washington.
It's been about a month since Amazon's announcement to back the MORE Act, but the company has not publicly announced lobbyist contributions to Washington. Time will tell if Amazon is all talk or plans to open their wallet to the new world of weed laws.
How Important is the MORE Act?
Perhaps Amazon shouldn't be the biggest name in this story. Perhaps it's more important to focus on the MORE Act, self-described as "historic in scope." If passed, what would the MORE Act actually change within the political and economic landscape of cannabis use in America?
Again, the "MORE" Act stands for the "Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act. It plans to:
- End the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana at the federal level.
- Retroactively expunge non-violent cannabis arrests, charges, and convictions at no cost to the individual. However, individual states could continue cannabis criminalization within their borders.
- Initially impose a 5 percent tax on the retail sale of cannabis. This tax will increase to 8 percent over a three-year period. The "Opportunity Trust Fund" will be created to collect and distribute this tax revenue.
- Create the Office of Cannabis Justice, which will oversee the social equivity provisions provided by the MORE Act.
- End the federal government's discrimination against people because of cannabis use. This includes cannabis users at risk of deportation, those with earned benefits from legalized cannabis, and others.
- Increase federal research into cannabis and cannabinoids, including CBD. This will not only increase our understanding of how cannabinoids function inside our bodies but will increase the number of products available to you!
- Establish better banking and tax laws around cannabis, especially marijuana.
- Fuel economic growth in an era when states are looking for more financial resources.
As you can see, the MORE Act will build a comprehensive foundation on which to build stronger cannabis legislation. Until now, cannabis has gained very little traction at the federal level– A previous version of the MORE Act was even passed by the House in December of 2020, but the Senators failed to take up the bill.
Amazon's Future in Cannabis
Time will tell how involved Amazon becomes in the online cannabis industry. As of now, there is a lot of demand for online marijuana delivery services. If Amazon became the first major corporation to support cannabis e-commerce, it could potentially change the landscape of cannabis sales moving forward.
For that to happen, the MORE Act must first pass in the Senate. We shall see if Amazon's lobbying fund finds congressional cannabis lawmakers. However, if you'd like to contribute to the passing of the MORE Act, you can email your Senators and let them know you'd like to see a "yes" vote on MORE! It takes less than two minutes.