U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced legislation April 23 that would extend federal COVID-19 relief efforts to the cannabis industry.
The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act would grant state-legal cannabis businesses access to the resources offered through federal COVID-19 emergency response packages, and would prohibit additional federal relief funding provided through the Small Business Administration (SBA) from excluding both cannabis businesses and businesses that provide services to the industry.
“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,” National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Executive Director Aaron Smith said in a public statement. “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.”
When the SBA allotted nearly $50 billion in aid to small businesses via low-interest loans last month, it became clear that cannabis businesses were ineligible to access this aid due to cannabis’ Schedule I status.
“Because federal law prohibits the sale and distribution of cannabis, the SBA does not provide financial assistance to businesses that are illegal under federal law,” Carol Chastang, SBA public affairs specialist, told Cannabis Business Times at that time. “Businesses that aren’t eligible include marijuana growers and dispensers, businesses that sell cannabis products, etc., even if the business is legal under local or state law.”
A coalition of U.S. senators sent a letter to leadership March 26 to urge the SBA to extend its economic assistance to the cannabis industry by including language in a forthcoming appropriations bill that would prohibit the SBA from denying loan applications from state-licensed cannabis businesses.
Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and eight of their colleagues then submitted a separate letter to leadership April 22, again requesting that the SBA extend aid to the cannabis industry.
Rep. Blumenauer and nearly three dozen other representatives also sent a letter to House leadership April 17, urging that chamber to ensure that cannabis businesses receive access to SBA programs.
Industry advocates and state officials have also launched their own efforts to urge lawmakers to extend economic relief to cannabis businesses.