Amazon, Supporter of Cannabis Reform, Continues To Ban Grinders

On one hand Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, openly supports specific pieces of cannabis legislation for reform and allows unregulated employees to consume cannabis on their own time. But on the other hand, harmless accessories like grinders are inconsistently flagged and banned from the platform, sending mixed messages, as Harris-Bricken’s Canna Law Blog pointed out.

Arnold Marcus, 68, who operated the vendor Golden Gate Grinders on Amazon, detailed to The Seattle Times how his cannabis grinder listings were suddenly flagged as a violation of company policy prohibiting the sale of drugs and drug paraphernalia, after he built his business up for nearly 10 years. Losing Amazon seller account privileges is like the kiss of death, given how much success depends upon e-sales nowadays.

Most of us are familiar with the legal games vendors play: Just as cannabis pipe sellers have to disguise their wares with the meaningless phrase “For Tobacco Use Only,” Amazon weed grinder sellers have to list them as “spice grinders” or as vague “herb grinders.”

For nine years, Marcus operated on Amazon without incident. It was his livelihood. Adding to Marcus’s success on Amazon, the platform even invited him to join the Amazon Accelerator program, which could lead to him becoming a supplier for Amazon’s private label.

“There was no indication in all those years that this is a prohibited product,” Marcus said. “One day, they were supporting me and then one day it ended.”

Those days ended when Marcus’s listings were abruptly dropped from the platform. Amazon defended itself to The Seattle Times. “Third-party sellers are independent businesses and are required to follow all applicable laws, regulations and Amazon policies when listing items for sale in our store,” a spokesperson said. “We have proactive measures in place to prevent prohibited products from being listed, including drug paraphernalia, and we continuously monitor our store, remove any such products and take corrective actions when we find them.”

Amazon Seller Central has a Drugs & Drug Paraphernalia section devoted to explaining what is and is not allowed on the platform. Some of the banned products include hemp or marijuana seeds capable of germination and any form of THC, whether it’s derived from marijuana or hemp.

Mixed Messages at Amazon

Jack Scrantom pointed out Amazon’s hypocrisy for Harris-Bricken’s Canna Law Blog, as Amazon’s algorithms go after herb grinder sellers—yet the company openly supports cannabis reform.

In June 2021, Amazon announced it would exclude cannabis from the company’s pre-employment drug screening program for unregulated positions.

Then on September 1, 2021, Amazon Vice President, Public Policy Brian Huseman wrote a public letter addressed to Sens. Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, reaffirming Amazon’s support for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act) and announcing support for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

“We believe it’s time to reform the nation’s cannabis policy and Amazon is committed to helping lead the effort,” Huseman wrote.

But support for cannabis reform doesn’t necessarily mean that cannabis-adjacent sellers won’t get the boot. Just like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Amazon is policed by algorithms that pick up cannabis-associated keywords and flag them.

They’re not always successful, however. For instance, sellers got away with selling butane hash oil extraction equipment until they were flagged by a third party.

Sellers on Amazon are fed up with the inconsistent way the rules are enforced, as plenty of other grinder sellers remain currently up. “I can’t understand why others can sell Spice Grinder normally, but I can’t sell it because they get Amazon’s approval?” one seller complained. “Or does Amazon think that I am a new seller and qualified to sell this product?”

He or she continued, “If everyone can’t sell Spice Grinder, I can accept it, but only I can’t sell it. I think this is an unfair thing.”

Try searching for “spice grinders’ on Amazon, and you’ll find over 8,000 results. Occasionally, actual spice grinders show up, but usually it’s the herb grinders we’re looking for.

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California Officials Bust Huge Subterranean Pot Farm

Law enforcement officials in San Bernardino County, California have filed charges against 11 individuals after a huge subterranean cannabis cultivation operation was discovered by police. At a press conference on Monday, San Bernardino District Attorney Jason Anderson and Sheriff Shannon Dicus announced the group faces charges of felony cultivation of marijuana, violating environmental law, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana for sale.

Law enforcement officials pegged the value of the cannabis products seized from the property in Newberry Springs at $9 million on the illicit market, although estimates from police and prosecutors have come under fire in recent months for being unrealistically inflated.

The charges against the defendants are related “to an industrial-sized subterranean illegal marijuana grow in Newberry Springs, a processing warehouse, and other properties used in conjunction with the selling, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis,” according to a statement from law enforcement officials.

California Property Raided Twice

Police first served a search warrant at the property in the small California high desert town in August 2020, according to arrest records from the sheriff’s department. At that time, law enforcement officials discovered eight greenhouses with approximately 2,000 cannabis plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana on the property. The owner of the land at the time was identified as Cheng Lin, who also faces a felony conspiracy charge. Two defendants who were detained at the site during the raid have also been charged.

Prosecutors allege that after the first raid, Lin sold the property to a second individual, Qiaoyan Liu, who also faces a felony conspiracy charge. On March 3 of this year, police raided the property a second time. During that action, officers with the sheriff’s department’s cannabis enforcement team discovered a large red shipping container known as a Conex box next to a house at the location.

“Upon searching the Conex box, deputies discovered the floor opened and were able to descend into an underground bunker,” the statement reads, according to a report from the Victorville Daily Press. “The bunker was 230 feet in length by 60 feet in width. It was constructed with over 30 Conex boxes approximately 15 feet below the ground.”

The underground facility covered 14,000 square feet and contained more than 6,000 illicit cannabis plants. Deputies also discovered a reserve of 5,500 gallons of fuel to power “generators that were used to air out the space and cure the plants,” according to Anderson.

Prosecutors also allege that “processed marijuana was found in the residence of Cheng Lin, as well as a commercial lease agreement in Cheng Lin’s name, for a commercial building in which law enforcement found numerous items used for the cultivation of marijuana and over (200) pounds of marijuana product.”

Felony Charges Filed

The district attorney is seeking a felony upgrade for the charges of illegal cultivation based on a provision of state law that permits stricter penalties for operations that harm the environment. Defendants in the case have been charged with “illegal discharge of waste and intentionally and with gross negligence causing substantial harm to public lands and other public resources.”

Anderson said that the case is indicative of law enforcement’s response to unlicensed cannabis cultivation in the area. He also vowed to seize property from owners of land used to grow cannabis illegally.

“Once we can say that these properties are known to contain a nuisance, we’re gonna take the property,” the district attorney said on Monday.

“If those folks can’t remediate the properties through appropriate sentence(s) that we may get in this particular case, then we will work with the county to try to take that property and then sell that property,” he added. “The taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for the illegal conduct that’s been engaged in here.”

Anderson said that enforcing the laws against unlicensed cannabis cultivation protects growers who have taken the effort, time, and expense of obtaining licenses to operate legitimately.

“You’re putting unfair competition on an industry that’s trying to be regulated,” Anderson said about illicit cannabis growers. He went on to compare the illicit cannabis cultivation operation to a counterfeit Amazon distribution warehouse.

“We have a bootleg Amazon selling illegal or counterfeit products out of a warehouse that’s buried underground,” he said. “Who can compete against that? Jeff Bezos couldn’t compete against that.”

Eight defendants who were on the property at the time the second search warrant was served have been charged in the case, including five defendants who have been arrested and charged. Law enforcement officials also issued arrest warrants for six additional people not yet in custody.

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Positive Drug Tests for Pot Hit All-Time High

More Americans are failing drug tests because of pot than ever before, and the solutions to the problem range from blaming legalization to dropping drug testing for pot altogether.

Quest Diagnostics drug-tested over 11 million people during 2021, via urine, hair, and oral fluid drug tests, analyzed about 9 million of the tests, and found some startling trends. According to a Quest Diagnostics newsroom press release quietly released last month, more people are failing drug tests due to pot use than ever before.

The rate of positive drug test results among America’s workforce overall hit a 20-year peak as well. It’s the highest rate since 2001, up over 30% in the combined U.S. workforce from an all-time low in 2010-2012, according to the analysis.

For an interactive map of the Drug Testing Index (DTI) with positivity rates and trends, click here.

“Positivity rates for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce, based on more than 6 million urine tests, continued an upward climb, increasing 8.3% (3.6% in 2020 versus 3.9% in 2021), the highest positivity rate ever reported in the DTI,” the survey summarizes. “Over five years, positivity for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce increased 50% (2.6% in 2017 versus 3.9% in 2021).”

The Wall Street Journal pointed out the number of states that have legalized cannabis since 2017, when the rates of positive drug tests were lower. Fresh Toast, on the other hand, questioned whether or not it’s time for policymakers to reflect what is going on in the general workforce amid the report of record-high numbers.

Quest Diagnostics leaders acknowledged a disconnect between changes in society and the drug testing results they found. Drug tests not only impact job applicants and employees—but the retention rates employers grapple with.

“Employers are wrestling with significant recruitment and retention challenges as well as with maintaining safe and engaging work environments that foster positive mental and physical wellbeing,” said Keith Ward, General Manager and Vice President, Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. “Our Drug Testing Index data raises important questions about what it means to be an employer committed to employee health and safety. Eager to attract talent, employers may be tempted to lower their standards. In the process, they raise the specter of more drug-related impairment and worksite accidents that put other employees and the general public in harms’ way.”

Drug Testing for Cannabis Is Not Reliable Indicator of Impairment

A study associated with the National Institute of Justice found that THC levels are “unreliable indicators” of impairment. National Institute of Justice-supported researchers from RTI International studied how specific cannabis doses correlate with THC levels, and their findings were surprising.

“Laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana vary from state to state, with a growing trend toward ‘per se’ laws that use a level of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, one of the psychoactive substances in marijuana) in the blood, urine, or oral fluid as a determinant of intoxication,” researchers wrote. “However, there is little evidence correlating a specific THC level with impaired driving, making marijuana per se laws controversial and difficult to prosecute.”

This aligns with what researchers from the Lambert Initiative, based at the University of Sydney in Australia, told High Times last year. Researchers at the Lambert Initiative focus some studies on cannabis impairment itself and the drug tests that are supposed to determine impairment.

“Unlike alcohol, you simply cannot infer whether some is affected by THC, or how affected they are, based simply on the amount of THC they have in their system,” Dr. Thomas R. Arkell told High Times last October.

He continued, saying it’s “ridiculous” to base laws and workplace rules on drug tests when it comes to cannabinoids.

Jobs That Don’t Drug Test

Do employers really need to drug test potential employees? Former President Ronald Reagan’s Drug Free Workplace Act was implemented in 1988. It started with 21% employers requiring drug tests in 1987, and that number shot to 81% by 1996.

The profound influence of state after state legalizing cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, combined with labor, is driving employers to reconsider pre-employment drug tests for cannabis among job applicants.

The most notable company to do so would probably be Amazon. On June 1, 2021, the company released a blog post based on its goal to become both “Earth’s Best Employer” and “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” In that announcement, it confirmed that it would be adjusting its drug testing policy to avoid testing for cannabis.

Forbes profiled a search engine Phynally, founded by Damian Jorden in April last year. Phynally can save time for job seekers if they choose to consume cannabis in their own time.

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Amazon Endorses Federal Cannabis Legalization

Amazon said this week that it supports a Republican congresswoman’s proposal to end the prohibition of marijuana on the federal level, the company’s latest embrace of legalization. 

In a tweet posted on Tuesday, Amazon said it was “pleased to endorse” a bill introduced by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).

“Like so many in this country, we believe it’s time to reform the nation’s cannabis policy and Amazon is committed to helping lead the effort,” the company said

Mace introduced the legislation, called the “States Reform Act,” in November, saying at the time that “Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward.”

The bill would remove cannabis from Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, a law that has kept weed illegal on the federal level and has made some states hesitant to pursue their own cannabis laws. 

“Today, only three states lack some form of legal cannabis,” Mace said in her November announcement. “My home state of South Carolina permits CBD, Florida allows medical marijuana, California and others have full recreational use, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality.”

Mace said that her bill would enshrine protections for veterans who have used cannabis to treat their PTSD, and would be respectful of each state’s own unique laws.

“This is why I’m introducing the States Reform Act, a bill which seeks to remove cannabis from Schedule I in a manner consistent with the rights of states to determine what level of cannabis reform each state already has, or not,” she continued in her announcement. “This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses, and it is good for criminal justice reform. Furthermore, a super-majority of Americans support an end to cannabis prohibition, which is why only three states in the country have no cannabis reform at all. The States Reform Act takes special care to keep Americans and their children safe while ending federal interference with state cannabis laws. Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward. This bill does that.”

On Tuesday, Mace touted the bill’s endorsement from Amazon, saying the company “is making a common-sense decision that many other businesses, large and small, agree with.”

“Amazon employs nearly a million U.S. workers, and this opens up their hiring pool by about 10 percent. Cannabis reform is supported by over three quarters of the American public, and the States Reform Act is something both sides of the aisle can get behind,” Mace said.

For Amazon, America’s second largest employer, the endorsement is yet another sign of the company’s weed-friendly stance.

Last June, Amazon said that it would “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.” In September, the company went further, saying it was reinstating “employment eligibility for former employees and applicants who were previously terminated or deferred during random or pre-employment marijuana screenings.”

The are also emerging signs that the company is set to ramp up its pro-marijuana lobbying efforts, with Politico reporting in July that cannabis groups “are pinning their hopes on Amazon using its experienced lobbying team and deep pockets to support their efforts, believing it could help them launch ad campaigns and persuade lawmakers opposed to legalization—especially those who represent states where cannabis is legal—to change their minds.”

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Cannabis Goes Virtual – The Potential with Weed Apps

Ever wanted to buy weed on an app? In the future, we might see cannabis go virtual with just that. With looser guidelines, marijuana lovers could potentially buy weed with online apps. This news regarding cannabis e-commerce comes from recent developments with Apple’s App Store. Back in July, Apple put forth new guidelines around what […]

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Cannabis-Related Decor for any Toker

In my travels around the internet, I’ve found some fascinating cannabis-related decor pieces that would shine in the most out and proud smokers’ house or fit with the more subtle touches of a low-key toker.

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Episode 362 – The Mainstream March of Marijuana

Andrea Brooks and Natalie Fertig join host Heather Sullivan to talk about the recent moves towards more cannabis normalization by the NFL, Amazon, and Rolling Stone as well as the various routes states are taking to legalize marijuana. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr

Potential Amazon Employees Will No Longer Be Disqualified for Marijuana Use

In addition to some other internal changes, Amazon CEO announced that they will be dropping their policy of using marijuana as a disqualifying factor for potential employees.

The move, Amazon said, is aimed at reiterating the “company’s commitment to being an attractive employer.”

In a blog post, Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer division, said changing state laws on marijuana meant Amazon (AMZN) will no longer include the substance in the company’s pre-employment drug tests and that the drug will now be treated the same as alcohol for existing employees.

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“In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use,” stated the blog post. “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…”

The post went on to mention that the company “will instead treat it [marijuana use] 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.”

Keep in mind that marijuana stays in your system for much longer than alcohol. Nanotechnology breathaizlyer tests do exists, but they are not yet in widespread use. However, the sensors on these devices can detect THC levels on molecules 100,000 times smaller than the average human hair, so they are highly efficient.

Currently, no legal threshold has been established when it comes cannabis impairment while driving (think 0.8% BAC), but employers are free to set their own limits. So, although cannabis use won’t bar you from employment, initially, it can still get you fired should an accident occur later on.

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