Shifting Public Opinion
In June of 2021, Amazon, the second largest employer in the United States, announced that it will no longer be testing employees or disqualifying applicants for marijuana use. Under the company’s new policy, marijuana use will be treated the same as alcohol use. This change of policy mirrors the shift in public opinion and many state’s laws regarding the continued criminalization of marijuana.
While 52% of Americans in 2010 supported the continued prohibition and criminalization of marijuana consumption and possession, as of 2019, that percentage had fallen to just 32% of Americans. Additionally, only five remaining states have not at least decriminalized the possession of marijuana in some capacity, and nineteen states have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults.
State & Federal Law
While state law has generally changed with public opinion regarding the criminalization of marijuana, federal law has remained largely stagnant on the issue. However, recently, federal legislation in the form of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, or SAFE Act, and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, has been proposed that would remove many of the financial barriers still facing the cannabis industry and federally decriminalize marijuana.
The MORE Act would federally decriminalize marijuana, expunge the criminal records of those charged with marijuana possession or consumption, and reinvest in the communities most impacted by the prolonged prohibition on marijuana.
The SAFE Act would create a safe harbor for financial depository institutions, such as banks, to be able to conduct business with clients who are engaged in the cannabis industry without fear of facing federal penalties.
These bills together would allow for greater participation in the cannabis industry, particularly by people of color, by providing more opportunities to receive funding, and allowing individuals whose prior marijuana convictions prevent them from receiving any marijuana licenses to expunge their records and therefore be able to obtain cannabis licenses. While both bills were passed by the House of Representatives, both stalled in the Senate in 2019 and 2020.
What Does the Future Hold?
Amazon, beyond simply changing their employment and hiring policies, has come out in full support of the MORE and SAFE Acts. With the support of the public, large corporations such as Amazon, and a new majority in the Senate that seems motivated to correct the injustices brought on by the criminalization of marijuana, we at Gard Law Firm are optimistic about the future of these bills and will continue to provide updates as these bills are hopefully retaken up by the Senate and passed.