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Amazon’s push to legalize kush

Amazon’s push to legalize kush

Good morning! This Wednesday, why Amazon is pushing to legalize weed, the Oversight Board wants a word with Facebook, and Snoop Dogg's secret Twitter account might not be what you expect.

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The Big Story

Amazon says 'legalize it'

Amazon announced yesterday that it will be endorsing two separate bills in Congress that aim to not only decriminalize pot-smoking nationwide, but also expunge and reduce the criminal records and sentences of people who have been incarcerated for it.

It might not be immediately clear why Amazon has skin in this game. But the biggest political fights these days — even ones about recreational drug use — all seem to eventually involve tech companies. And in this case, the varying state rules and regulations have actually made business decisions difficult for Big Tech.

Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer. If you believe a recent Gallup poll that found that 12% of U.S. adults smoke weed, and assume that number also applies to Amazon employees too, 100,000 of the company's workers are technically breaking federal laws all the time.

  • No private company is required to drug test its employees, but often those that contract with federal agencies do have to do it for certain workers. (For example, Amazon still must for federally regulated transportation jobs.)
  • Before Amazon removed its marijuana drug tests for workers in June, countless people looking for work as drivers or in warehouses were denied jobs because they failed the tests.
  • But now everyone who failed those drug tests will be eligible for employment again. Amazon says that's in part because enforcing marijuana rules is no longer easy or equitable to do, given the patchwork of state laws.

The company is desperate to fill more than 100,000 new jobs and is reportedly battling unusually high turnover rates for its current employees, creating a trade-off scenario: Limit applicants because of difficult weed laws (let's call this Option A), or potentially anger some state and government drug officials while beginning to address the hiring problem (Option B). Amazon chose Option B.

  • Amazon also gets to look good to workers by advocating for what is objectively popular legislation.
  • Enforcing drug rules tends to disproportionately affect people of color; more than 50% of Amazon's warehouse workers and delivery drivers identify as Black or Latinx.

This is also about more than workers and hiring. One of the country's biggest ecommerce suppliers still can't participate in, and therefore profit off of, the growing cannabis industry. Google is facing similar problems here: The company doesn't allow advertising for any illegal drugs, including cannabis, and you can't download any apps that sell weed in the Play Store. Apple just recently lifted its ban on weed-related apps, though there are some restrictions.

Federal legalization would make all of these complex and increasingly large problems basically disappear for everyone. Maybe don't let your kids read today's newsletter (hi, Dad!), but the lesson here? A whole lot of people do drugs, and tech companies want in on the money.

— Anna Kramer (email | twitter)


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People Are Talking

On Protocol: Facebook launched the new Portal Go smart display, and Andrew Bosworth said users love Portal in general:

  • "The backlash was very much predicted. It never really materialized amongst consumers."

There's too much market volatility at the moment to go public, Klarna's Sebastian Siemiatkowski says:

  • "I think it would be nice to IPO when it's a little bit more sound. And right now it doesn't feel really sound out there."

John Stankey says AT&T needs a face-lift:

  • "It's a highly recognized brand, but we've got to take it to a new place."

Investor Sumant Mandal says China's tech regulation is good for India:

  • "Now there's more of a belief system around India. The size of startups like Flipkart, Byju's and BillDesk changes everything."

OpenSea CEO Devin Finzer doesn't think the company's now-former exec necessarily did insider trading:

  • "We don't view NFTs as financial assets, so that does not apply. That's a very specific term for a very specific thing."

Making Moves

Transfix is going public via SPAC. The digital freight startup would be valued at $1.1 billion in the deal.

Chacko Sonny is leaving Blizzard. He's the executive producer of the hit game Overwatch.

Activision Blizzard is also losing Claire Hart, who'd been the company's chief legal officer for three years.

Brynn Putnam is stepping down as Mirror CEO. She'll be an advisor for the Lululemon-owned brand through next year, and Mirror's looking for her successor now.

NASA is splitting its human spaceflight office in two. The office's current leader, Kathy Lueders, will lead one segment, and former senior manager Jim Free will oversee the other.

Diya Jolly and Sameer Dholakia are joining ServiceTitan's board. Jolly is Okta's chief product officer, and Dholakia formerly led SendGrid.

Gabriel Stricker is joining Color as chief communications officer. He's held leadership roles at Google, Niantic and Twitter.

In Other News

  • The Oversight Board wants the details of Facebook's XCheck system, which has reportedly allowed prominent figures to break the social network's rules without consequences. The board said it was "misled" over the system.
  • Facebook says it has spent $13 billion on safety and security since the 2016 election, and tapped tens of thousands of employees to focus on those efforts. It made this announcement in a lengthy blog post that's a clear response to the Facebook Files.
  • Netflix and the Chocolate Factory? The streaming service bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, giving it rights to the author's entire catalog. That's a strong push for Netflix, which continues to look for big, bankable IP.
  • Federal officials are sanctioning crypto exchange Suex over its alleged involvement in illegal ransomware payments. It's the Treasury Department's first move on crypto companies over ransomware activity.
  • On Protocol | Workplace: Employee resource groups are effective … until they're not, according to current and former ERG members. They said ERGs can act as a safe space for people of similar backgrounds, but they don't really effect change in the workplace.
  • Could Apple devices detect autism and depression? The company is working with researchers to find out the answer to that question, using information collected on iPhones and Apple Watches.
  • On Protocol | Policy: Governments' tech regulation is self-serving, according to a new report. Global leaders are introducing and sometimes passing laws to rein in tech companies, but the report's authors said the laws are really enabling censorship and surveillance.
  • Google is growing in the Big Apple. The company is buying a new office building on Manhattan's West Side for $2.1 billion; it already leases one in Hudson Square.
  • Facebook may have paid a lot of money to cover for Mark Zuckerberg in the Cambridge Analytica data leak probe, shareholders have alleged. The platform is said to have overpaid its penalty to the FTC to ensure Zuckerberg could avoid personal liability.

One More Thing

Snoop Dogg's NFT secret

So there's this Twitter account, @CozomoMedici, that tweets about NFTs. It's just shy of a month old, but it already has thousands of followers. And on Monday, none other than Snoop Dogg revealed that he's the person running the account. (Are we 100% sure this is the truth? No. But @CozomoMedici is rolling with the idea, and it's a fun theory, so we're going with it.)

Tons of celebrities have their own NFTs, including Simone Biles and Paris Hilton, but Snoop Dogg is actually dropping a ton of money in the space. And, as you might expect, a lot of those NFTs are weed-related, which seems to be the theme of today's newsletter.


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