Jeffery Bezos started the massively successful online retail company Amazon almost 30 years ago with nothing but a dream, a garage, and a significant amount of startup capital generously invested by his parents. Today, the company is a household name across the globe—one that generates billions of dollars of revenue a year.
A large part of Amazon’s success comes from the seemingly infinite variety of products offered on the site. Where else can you buy a plunger, multivitamin, birdcage, and an out-of-print poetry anthology all in one place? You can find just about everything on Amazon, and you don’t even have to put on pants and leave the house.
It’s hard to compete with that convenience. Just ask your local bookstore owner. Independent booksellers all over the country have seen their industry completely decimated by Amazon during the last decade. Plus, with the coronavirus pandemic leaving everyone cautious about leaving the house, Amazon isn’t just more convenient—it’s safer. It’s why the company saw record-breaking profits during the last two years.
As Amazon continues to be the world’s go-to retailer for more and more products, what will the future of cannabis sales look like? Some may find the idea of an Amazon drone dropping off an eighth on the front porch genuinely exciting; others may feel it’s a bit too dystopian for their taste. Regardless of your opinion, is there even a chance Amazon could become your next pot dealer?
Amazon’s History With Cannabis
Historically, the online retailer has had a complicated history with cannabis products. First, it’s important to know how Amazon actually works. They don’t actually manufacture, store, or even ship a significant portion of the products available for sale on the site. Instead, smaller third-party sellers partner with the company.
Officially, Amazon doesn’t allow for the sale of any cannabinoids, including CBD, on their platform. They explicitly call this rule out on the drugs and paraphernalia section of their seller’s guidelines.
However, if you type “CBD” into the Amazon search bar, you can find hundreds of pages of what looks to be genuine CBD products. Most of the products don’t actually contain CBD, though. They’re usually hemp-derived products but don’t necessarily contain any cannabinoids. Other companies repackage genuine CBD products specifically for sale on Amazon so that they don’t contain any information identifying CBD content in order to get around the company’s ban.
Despite Amazon’s home base being in Seattle, Washington, an extremely progressive city and one of the first places in the country with legal recreational marijuana, Amazon has been pretty anti-cannabis within their own organization by routinely subjecting their employees to marijuana drug screenings. According to the CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer Division, this practice may be changing.
Amazon’s New Stance On Cannabis
In between union-busting brainstorming sessions, Amazon’s Dave Clark released a statement saying:
“In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use. However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course. 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. We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident.”
Some may interpret Clark’s statement as just another PR move, but others in the cannabis industry are worried this may be the harbinger of Amazon’s future entrance into the world of cannabis delivery. The fear being that dispensaries could go the way of the quirky used book store.
Nobody can predict the future, but based on the company’s historically conservative CBD policy and mostly failed attempt to distribute alcohol, it’s unlikely that the company will be moving into cannabis any time soon. At least not until there have been significant changes made in federal drug policy.