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Big tech is getting into legal weed. There are already plenty of delivery platforms where you can order weed to your door across the legalization landscape, there are hi-tech vaping devices that heat your herb to precise temperatures, and even at-home tests that let you determine the THC content of your stash. But at Amazon, one of America’s (and the globe’s) largest tech firms, that drive towards legal weed isn’t about a product – at least not yet – but about politics, instead.

According to a new report from the Washington Post – a newspaper owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – the e-commerce giant is throwing the full weight of its lobbying power behind a new Republican-led federal cannabis legalization bill. Introduced by South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace, the States Reform Act would remove marijuana’s Schedule I classification and implement a 3% federal tax on all cannabis sales nationwide. 

“Every state is different and every state should be able to dictate their cannabis laws,” Mace told The New York Post in an interview. “This bill would get the federal government out of the way.”

Getting the federal government out of the way is also a primary goal at Amazon, especially when it comes to cannabis. In response to Rep. Mace’s new bill, Amazon’s lobbying team has made a number of public statements in support of the proposed legislation.

“We’re pleased to endorse Rep Mace’s States Reform Act,” Amazon’s public policy team wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Amazon is adamant that its stake in the legalization debate stems from marijuana prohibition’s effects on the workforce, with state-by-state cannabis laws affecting the company’s drivers, warehouse workers, and more. Amazon came out in favor of legalization last year and has since voiced public support for multiple Democrat-led legalizations and expungement bills. In June of 2021 Amazon announced that they would stop pre-employment cannabis testing for many of their employees.

“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said during an interview with the Washington Post. “One reason why we were particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill is that it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue, and we think that this is an issue on which both parties can agree.”

But given Amazon’s less than stellar track record when it comes to labor relations and the company’s penchant for dominating retail sectors and pushing small businesses out of the way, some legislators are wary of the public policy push, worried that Amazon is looking towards legalization as a stepping stone to entering the highly lucrative legal weed business.

“I’m deeply skeptical that Amazon’s lobbying is anything more than a self-interested move to monopolize yet another market, potentially blocking Black and Latino entrepreneurs from an emerging industry,” Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has repeatedly voiced support for legalization, told the Post.

Considering America’s current legal cannabis landscape, where many states have used excessively high barriers of entry to licensing to essentially hand over near-total control of the medical and recreational markets to deep-pocketed multi-state operators, the prospect of Amazon getting into the cannabis production or distribution industry could spell doom for many smaller, already struggling legacy cannabis operators.

Amazon Is Backing A Republican Push

For their part, Amazon is adamant that they are not lobbying for legalization in an attempt to get in the weed selling business, with the company’s PR team repeatedly pointing to the workforce benefits of legalization.

“There are no plans to sell cannabis and that is not why we’re doing this or being involved in this debate,” Huseman, Amazon’s policy spokesperson, told the Post. “We hope and we think that other large employers in this country should take the same position that we’re taking on this, that they should also use their resources to lobby for federal legalization and expungement. It’s the right thing to do. We do think this policy is the right policy, it’s right for the country, it’s right for our employees, right for workers, so we’re going to push and work on things that we think are good policy, and this is one of them.”

For Mace, who is still a freshman in Congress and whose Republican colleagues in South Carolina have rebuked her legalization bill, the support from Amazon is more than welcome.

“Having Amazon lean in at this level this early gives this kind of reform great momentum going forward,” Rep. Mace said.

Despite a number of initiatives from both sides of the aisle over the past few years, Congress is still a long way away from voting on, let alone passing, a federal legalization bill.