Amazon backs federal bill to legalize marijuana

Amazon supports federal legislation to legalize marijuana and is committed to no longer testing some of its workers for the drug.

In a blog post Tuesday, Amazon’s chief consumer Dave Clark said the company supports the Marijuana Opportunity Elimination and Reinvestment Act, reintroduced in the House late last month. The MORE Act would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in affected communities.

“We hope that other employers will join us and that legislators act quickly to pass this law,” Clark wrote.

Amazon said it would adjust its corporate drug testing policy for some of its workers. The company will no longer include marijuana in its drug screening program for any position that is not regulated by the Department of Transportation, Clark said.

“In the past, like many employers, we disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use,” Clark said. “However, as state laws are moving in the United States, we have changed course.”

Clark said Amazon is also changing its system that measures worker productivity, known as “free time.”

Amazon tracks productivity rates among its warehouse workers, tracking the number of packages they pick up, pack, and put away each hour. If workers take a break from scanning packages for too long, Amazon’s internal systems will record it as a time-off task and generate a warning, which can later lead to layoffs.

The measurement system was designed to identify problems with worker tools and “only secondarily to identify underperforming employees,” Clark said.

Starting today, Clark said, Amazon will measure free time on tasks over a longer period of time. “We believe this change will help ensure that the homework time policy is used as intended,” he added.

Amazon’s time off policy has come under scrutiny from employees and labor advocacy groups who argue that it makes working conditions more strenuous and is used as a tool to monitor workers. These groups have also said that Amazon’s relentless pace of work contributes to rising injury rates among employees.

In his last letter to shareholders in April, outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos argued that Amazon’s performance targets are not unreasonable. However, he recognized that Amazon needs “a better vision for employee success” and is committed to making the company “the best employer on Earth and the safest place to work.”

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