Small Businesses May Suffer If Amazon Enters the Cannabis Sector

Stephen Andrews
24 Jul 2021

Online retail giant Amazon recently changed company policies in favor of cannabis. Namely, the corporation won't test for marijuana for most of its job positions. They also expressed support for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act). And, as reports suggest, Amazon is also persuading other corporations and Congress to support the federal legalization of cannabis.

Several advocacy and industry groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), and Canopy Growth reported having met with Amazon executives over the month of June. The meaty topic over those meetings reportedly was federal legalization, according to Politico. 

A number of cannabis legalization proponents are now looking to Amazon, hoping the company "will take the next step and use its considerable D.C. muscle to help get [the initiatives] passed," reported Politico. 

The so-called Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act moved forward as a draft proposal to the Senate on July 14 with the effort of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and fellow Sens Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

The draft bill is ambitious, to say the least. It aims to decriminalize marijuana, expunge non-violent marijuana-related arrests and convictions from federal records, and regulate business taxes, bringing in money for restorative justice programs that will benefit communities who have most suffered from the war on drugs. 

While some are pessimistic the bill will not pass the Senate, others think that it could get the much-needed votes with some compromise. And Amazon just might be the game-changer in the whole picture.

Whether the company is actively lobbying or financially supporting the legislation is still unknown, however, cannabis lobbyists in contact with Amazon have confirmed that the company is involved in the ongoing debate in Washington, D.C. 

Deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Matthew Schweich, said: "I think that if Amazon were able to lend its political support to federal reform and fund state-level efforts, that would be a net positive for the cannabis reform movement in this country."

Federal regulation of cannabis could open up the space for big players such as Amazon to enter the sector. Amazon has not made any public statement it wants to join the sector, but other big companies like Uber Technologies Inc. have announced it's a possibility for them in case of federal legalization of marijuana. 

Experts agree that Amazon is powerful enough to impact federal legislation by offering benefits to other corporations, however, this can come at the cost of small companies. 

Morgan Fox of the National Cannabis Industry Association has said in a statement, "There have been a lot of concerns that they might try to push out the ability of small businesses to be able to succeed in this space, so that's definitely something that we're on the lookout for."

Maritza Perez, Director of the National Affairs at the DPA, who met Amazon in June to discuss the latest legalization bill, said Amazon "didn't tell me anything about wanting to get in sales or anything." 

"I did express the fact that they're a big corporation, and that people may think that they're doing this for other reasons," Perez said. 

Amazon's involvement in cannabis legalization talks follows after the company's change of heart as of June 1, when their CEO announced the corporation is not to subject employees to cannabis drug test use anymore. 

Until June, the company policy was, like other corporations, to turn down candidates who tested positive on cannabis, even if they were the perfect fit for the job.

Stephen Andrews