In last week’s post we highlighted the dangers of cannabis in workplaces and on the roads, which may make a decision by one of the world’s leading brands seem a strange move. Retail giant Amazon has revised its workplace drug testing policy on cannabis. The revisions mean that people who have been previously sacked for failing a test for cannabis are allowed to reapply for their jobs. In addition, the company has excluded cannabis from its comprehensive pre-employment workplace drug testing program for many positions.
There are some important qualifications to make here.
Firstly, the changes only apply to Amazon employees in the United States, where workplace drug testing is handled quite differently to Australia (see below). In addition, it doesn’t apply to Amazon positions that are regulated by the Department of Transportation, which would include, for example, truck drivers and fork lift operators. Plus, most importantly, it doesn’t mean that employees are allowed to come to work high on cannabis or use cannabis on the job.
According to Amazon, on aboutamazon.com, the changes in policy are in part response to changes in state laws in some states of the US, which have legalised cannabis use.
“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,” says Dave Clark, CEO, Worldwide Consumer. “We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident.”
Key differences between US and AU workplace drug testing
Historically, there are some key differences between the ways that workplace drug testing is handled in the United States compared to Australia.
The biggest difference is that while in Australian workplace drug testing is a safety initiative, in the United States, the scope is much wider. For example, in the United States, while truck drivers, pilots and manufacturing workers face drug testing, so too do many white collar workers. In addition, pre-employment testing has been used in the United States for a long time, in part to keep those with drug or alcohol issues off companys’ books.
The other important point to note, particularly in relation to the pre-employment testing, is that urine drug testing is mostly used in the United States, whereas in Australia saliva drug testing is becoming increasingly popular. This is a key difference, because urine testing can detect historical as well as current usage, where saliva testing is a better indicator of impairment from recent use.
The offshoot of this is that in recent years there has been a change in the wind in the United States, largely because employers in some industries have struggled to hire workers due to many potential employees failing workplace drug testing for cannabis. Effectively, testing for cannabis has restricted the pool of people that are eligible to be hired.
Reading between the lines, we’d suggest this is one of the main reasons for the change in policy at Amazon.
Dave Clark, CEO, Worldwide Consumer, suggests this when he says, “Amazon’s pace of growth means that we are always looking to hire great new team members, and we’ve found that eliminating pre-employment testing for cannabis allows us to expand our applicant pool.”
US to mirror AU workplace drug testing?
The changes by Amazon are important because they are such a big company and it’s likely others will follow their lead. This could pave the way for the United States to start mirroring Australia’s drug testing goals, and using testing more as a safety tool rather than a disciplinary and reason not to hire tool.
Changes to Amazon’s workplace drug testing policy in the United States could pave the way for that country to move more towards an Australian testing model. Credit Todd Van Hoosear https://www.flickr.com/photos/vanhoosear/44155424640/