Widespread recognition of necessity for regulated cannabis providers spurs calls for equal access to federal assistance
Legislation to give legal marijuana businesses, which have been declared essential in a majority of states with regulated cannabis markets, access to resources being made available by congressional COVID-19 emergency response packages was introduced in the House last month by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act would stop cannabis businesses and those that provide services to them from being excluded from further federal relief funding provided through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
“The cannabis industry employs nearly a quarter of a million Americans and has been deemed essential in state after state, yet many businesses will not survive the pandemic without help,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “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. We are incredibly grateful for the dozens of lawmakers who are urging their colleagues to give cannabis businesses fair access to federal relief funds in these difficult times.”
Under current policy, businesses that deal directly with cannabis production and sale, as well as many that provide services to them, are ineligible for any SBA programs. Many indirect businesses have not been declared essential and have been forced to close. Cannabis businesses that have remained open must contend with declining sales, supply chain disruptions, onerous tax rates, lack of access to banking services, and the costs incurred by implementing additional health and safety measures to protect employees and customers.
Last week, Rep. Blumenauer and nearly three dozen of his colleagues sent a letter to House leadership urging them to make cannabis businesses eligible for SBA programs. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) along with eight co-signers sent a similar letter to Senate leadership on Wednesday. They have been joined by cannabis industry advocates, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, state officials including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, and others.
Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. Every state with a functional regulated cannabis market is allowing continued legal access in some form during the ongoing pandemic restrictions.
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