Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) proposed a bill in the House of Representatives that would allow federal relief funds to be made available for cannabis businesses in states where the businesses are operating legally. The bill asks for them to be considered like other small businesses for COVID-19 federal aid and would make them eligible for multiple Small Business Administration (SBA) programs.
“As Congress seeks to provide relief to small businesses across America, chief among those being left out are state-legal cannabis businesses that are essential to communities and have met the demands of this crisis,” said Blumenauer in a press release.
Blumenauer and 33 other members of Congress sent a letter to the leaders of the House asking that the next version of the COVID-19 relief bill include state-legal cannabis businesses. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and 9 other Senators sent a similar letter to the Senate leadership. The letter says the cannabis industry is a major economic contributor, employing over 240,000 workers and generating $1.9 billion for state and local taxes.
Cannabis businesses have been recognized as essential, allowing them to continue operations during the pandemic. They are not eligible for CARES Act programs like other small businesses, but some members of Congress argue they should be. They say a lack of aid will lead to unnecessary layoffs or pay cuts and aid shouldn’t be held back by “outdated federal policy.”
“State-legal cannabis businesses need access to CARES Act programs to ensure they have the financial capacity to undertake the public health and worker-focused measures experts are urging businesses to take. This includes access to and participation in SBA’s loan programs—financial support that is designed to pay workers, group health care benefits, and family or sick leave,” the letter says.
Every state which has a regulated cannabis market has allowed access to cannabis during pandemic restrictions, including all 33 states and additional territories with medical cannabis laws according to the National Cannabis Industry.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said many cannabis businesses will not survive without help. “They already face disproportionate financial burdens during normal conditions, and the strains created by the coronavirus response are putting them at an even greater disadvantage and jeopardizing their ability to provide vital healthcare services.”