“I’m pretty disappointed that we haven’t really seen any movement at the federal level,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “I think if Amazon were able to provide political support for federal reform and fund state-level efforts, it would be a net positive for the cannabis reform movement in this country.”
A third of Americans currently live in a state where cannabis is or soon will be legally sold for adult use, and 68% of voters support federal legalization, according to a Gallup poll conducted last year. But American business and Congress have been much slower to address the issue. Many businesses and the federal government continue to employ drug tests, even in states where cannabis is legal, and a federal decriminalization bill that passed the House last year is stalled. in the Senate.
Amazon has one of the most relaxed positions on cannabis among major U.S. employers. He supports legalization and made the decision to stop employees from drug testing for cannabis, which will expand the company’s pool of potential employees. Although its online delivery infrastructure is unmatched, advocates say the company has given no indication that it is considering embarking on the weed business on its own if cannabis is legalized nationwide. .
“They didn’t tell me anything about wanting to sell or anything,” said Maritza Perez, director of the National Affairs office of the Drug Policy Alliance, who met with Amazon to discuss the bill in June. . “I expressed the fact that this is a big company and people may think they are doing it for other reasons. And they understand that it could be the perception.
There are indications, however, that Amazon is interested in trying to convince other companies and Congress to support legalization. A number of advocacy and industry groups, including Drug Policy Alliance, the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform and Canopy Growth Inc., said they met with Amazon officials last month to discuss federal marijuana policy.
Amazon said last month that its “public policy team will actively support the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” otherwise known as the MORE Act, which would decriminalize cannabis and provide for the erasure of certain non-violent cannabis offenses. , had been a long time coming. The company has had preliminary conversations about whether to get involved in the national conversation over CBD – a substance found in the cannabis plant that was federally legalized in 2018 – and marijuana last year, according to someone with first-hand knowledge of the matter, but there were internal disagreements as to whether the company should do it and what the focus would be.
The House passed the bill largely party-favored last December, although it was never taken up by the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced his own more detailed cannabis bill last week. But Amazon declined to say whether or not it would support it.
The reaction of industry groups and advocates to Amazon’s decision to support the MORE law has been mixed. Most told POLITICO that the money and influence Amazon could bring to the problem could be of great help to a still underfunded lobbying effort. But there is also some apprehension that Amazon’s involvement indicates that it is actually considering entering the industry one way or another, and that it could influence federal law to ensure that it is more user-friendly for large companies.
“There has been a lot of concern that they are trying to push back the ability of small businesses to be successful in this space, so that’s definitely something we’re looking for,” said Morgan Fox of National Cannabis. Industry Association.
Legal cannabis sales in the United States increased 50% last year, topping $ 20 billion, according to New Frontier Data. They are expected to double again over the next four years. However, the industry has been slow to invest significant sums in lobbying, either nationally or for local legalization efforts.
The biggest donor to New Jersey’s successful legalization campaign last year, for example, was Scotts Miracle Gro – not a cannabis company or group. Lobbyists and advocates say the dollars Amazon could contribute to a nationwide campaign for federal legalization would help them implement efforts for which they currently have no money.
Amazon is a major lobbying investor in Washington, spending nearly $ 17.9 million last year. It is not clear, however, whether Amazon lobbyists have ever pressured Congress to support the MORE law or any other federal reform. Amazon’s second-quarter lobbying disclosure report is not yet public, and the company has declined to comment.
Amazon’s approval of the MORE law didn’t make the headlines, but it did have an impact among those pushing to reform the country’s cannabis laws.
“This is a big deal for such a large employer, employer and business that almost every American household interacts with in one way or another,” said Chelsea Parsons, interim vice president of the Center for American Progress for Criminal Matters. justice reform. “It helps change the culture around this issue. “