Are Amazon and Apple paving the way to cannabis legalization?

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Apple no longer prohibits marijuana delivery services from being hosted on its App Store, and Amazon now excludes marijuana from its pre-employment drug screening.

Will more companies start making similar changes and come on board, especially since Wall Street investors are paying more attention to U.S. and Canadian cannabis companies?

Granted, many of these developments, including investing criteria, come with restrictions and stipulations, but as some of the biggest tech companies push for transformation and change, others are sure to follow.

For example, when Apple removed its ban on cannabis apps, other restrictions still apply. Permitted marijuana apps must be geo-restricted to locations where cannabis is legal and must be submitted by a legal entity, not an individual developer.

Here’s what the previous policy said:

“Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies), marijuana, or tobacco is not allowed.”

Here’s what the new policy (updated in June 2021) states:

“Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies and licensed or otherwise legal cannabis dispensaries), or tobacco is not allowed.”

Eaze was the first app of its kind available on the App Store, which is designed to facilitate the purchase and delivery of cannabis in the U.S. The app includes registration, ID verification, handles payments, and receipts for orders, as well as provides on-demand delivery and order tracking. Sales are limited to those age 21 years or over. Multiple verifications of customer IDs are required throughout the purchase and delivery process.

In contrast, Google’s app store updated its substance policy in 2019 to explicitly prohibit programs that connect users with cannabis, regardless of whether or not it’s legal in a user’s jurisdiction. It more recently updated its rules to prohibit cannabis apps that include shopping cart features.

The tech industry has had an interesting relationship with the marijuana industry, but as a growing number of states legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis will we see more change? Most likely, particularly if these the larger companies can find a way to benefit financially.

Facebook showed off its artificial intelligence technology in 2019 by making it possible to identify images of marijuana, and continues to prohibit commercial advertising of cannabis products. Amazon, on the other hand, announced last June that it supports the federal legalization of marijuana and revised its workplace policy.

According to Forbes columnist Dario Sabaghi, Amazon is taking this action to encourage cannabis legalization at the federal level. In an October article, Sabahi writes that the company is realizing that national regulation is undermining growth of an already huge industry, and cannabis legalization would allow the company to enter the cannabis industry.

In June, Amazon announced it is treating cannabis use by employees in the same way as it treats alcohol. This including removing the presence of marijuana in from its comprehensive drug screening program for any job positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation.

In September company officials also announced that it has reinstated employment eligibility for former employees and applicants who were previously terminated or deferred during random or pre-employment marijuana screenings.

“We made these changes for a few reasons. First, we recognized that an increasing number of states are moving to some level of cannabis legalization–making it difficult to implement an equitable, consistent, and national pre-employment marijuana testing program. Second, publicly available national data indicates that pre-employment marijuana testing disproportionately impacts people of color and acts as a barrier to employment. And third, 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.”

Amazon also announced its support for, and began actively lobbying on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act) and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity (CAO) Act.

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