Saturday, September 4, 2021

Bezos, Musk and Branson Get High in More Ways Than One

Brothers in Space, and Green

Bezos with McCormick in 2005
Ian Rassman of LA NORML has informed me that activist/
breeder Todd McCormick revealed on his Instagram account that Jeff Bezos indicated he was a pot smoker when the two met in 2005 at an Amazon 10th Anniversary event featuring Norah Jones and Bill Maher

This would mean that the three billionaires who shot themselves or others into space of late—Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson—are all potheads. So much for marijuana smokers not achieving their highest goals. 

Amazon announced in June that it would cease drug-testing its employees for marijuana and would work towards pot legalization in a message to US Amazon employees from CEO Dave Clark that began, "In April, Jeff shared our vision to become Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work." Bezos famously thanked Amazon's poorly paid employees after his costly space shot, something that rankled employees who have been thwarted from unionizing.

Frances McDormand in Nomadland
Much like Barbara Ehrenreich took a series of minimum-wage jobs to write Nickel and Dimed, author Jessica Bruder bought a van and lived like a nomad to write her 2017 book Nomadland, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning film by Tokin' Woman Frances McDormand. After a hard day working at a beet factory, Bruder recounts smoking a joint to relax, almost costing her a job she'd applied for at Amazon as part of CamperForce, a program that hires itinerant workers. 
"Getting the Amazon job required a pre-employment drug screening, a practice that has always struck me as invasive and degrading," Bruder writes. "The whole thing seemed even more absurd when I envisioned aging RVers across the country submitting bodily fluids or tissues for analysis in order to get precarious, low-wage, temporary work." She'd expected a "cheek scrape" test, which only detects most drugs, including marijuana, for a matter of days, but instead got scheduled for a urine test, which she passed by smuggling in clean urine from a donor in a travel shampoo bottle. 

Jimmy Kimmel's joke about the Amazon announcement was that the urine test was the only bathroom break employees there got. Maybe the company can help us move to "impairment checks" that have actual correlation with worker impairment and workplace safety (unlike piss tests). 


As for our other two Spaced Cadets: Musk famously smoked a joint during an appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast in 2018. He made a joke about it in May when he hosted Saturday Night Live, where he announced he has Asperger's Syndrome, which is interesting because some studies say cannabis can be an effective medicine for people on the autism spectrum. 

Branson with McCormick at the 
Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum
Branson recounts trying pot and LSD in his 1998 book, Losing My Virginity. In 2001 he said that he would sell legalized cannabis in his Virgin stores, but not tobacco because it is too dangerous. When asked about cannabis on a BBC2 interview he said: "I personally think it should be legalized. I think it’s wrong that 100,000 young people have criminal records every year for doing something which is no worse than their parents are doing every night—drinking alcohol." 

The Brit who beat both Bezos and Musk into space accepted a Cannabis Culture award at the opening of the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Barcelona in 2012. He has been more and more outspoken about drug legalization, acting as a commissioner of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and telling the press he asked President Obama for a joint when he visited the White House in 2012. He blogged in February 2021 about "Changing the Cannabis Conversation." 

Meanwhile, according to a new report from Bloomberg, Amazon is urging its delivery service companies to no longer test applicants for marijuana, and to advertise that fact in its recruiting. It will be a good experiment to prove that off-the-job smokers can be responsible drivers, even as the DOT is demanding the right to continue to test commercial drivers in federal legalization proposals, something NORML protests

Amazon Senior VP of HR Beth Galetti
UPDATE 9/21/2021: Amazon is further relaxing its screening policies for marijuana, as it ramps up support for federal legislation to legalize the drug. In a blog post, Amazon HR VP Beth Galetti wrote that the company has “reinstated the employment eligibility” for former employees and applicants who were fired or deferred during random or pre-employment marijuana screenings. “Pre-employment marijuana testing has disproportionately affected communities of color by stalling job placement and, by extension, economic growth, and we believe this inequitable treatment is unacceptable,” Galetti said.

UPDATE 9/23/2021: California's governor signed into law a union-backed bill that takes aim at warehouse speed quotas that became infamous when reports surfaced of Amazon workers urinating in water bottles due to a lack of time to go to the bathroom. The new law requires warehouses to inform employees of work speed standards and the consequences for failing to meet them. It also prevents workers from being penalized for complying with health and safety laws — like going to the restroom — that slow the pace of their work.

UPDATE 10/22/21: Amazon revealed in its federal lobbying report that it spent 4.74 million dollars lobbying in 2021, including on cannabis reform. 

1 comment:

ianrassman said...

Great article Ellen! "So much for marijuana smokers not achieving their highest goals.".... I LOVE it!