As the United States federal government prepares for another coronavirus emergency economic stimulus package, a bill has been introduced that seeks to revise the policy to make cannabis companies eligible for financial support. If approved, both marijuana and ancillary companies would have access to programs provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA), including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans Emergency Grants.
The piece of legislation, entitled the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act, was submitted by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). Although cannabis companies have been deemed essential and have been permitted to remain open amid sweeping business closures, the SBA currently prohibits them from qualifying for coronavirus aid.
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).— National Cannabis Industry Association (@NCIAorg) April 23, 2020
“With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products [that were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill], marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services,” the SBA said on Twitter.
The bill would stop the SBA from denying funding to marjiuana businesses in legal states.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a business shall not be ineligible for assistance on the basis that the business is a cannabis-related legitimate business or a service provider,” the bill reads.
“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 Rep. Blumenauer in a press release. “We should include state-legal cannabis in federal COVID-19 response efforts. Without providing these businesses the relief needed to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures, we are putting these hard-working people, and ourselves, at risk.”
Other House representatives who were cosponsors of the bill included Jason Crow (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Don Young (R-AK), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Debra Haaland (D-NM), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
“Cannabis businesses are major employers and significant contributors to local economies in Colorado and across the country,” Rep. Perlmutter said. “They should receive the same level of support as other legal, legitimate businesses and be eligible for SBA relief funds during this COVID-19 crisis.”
Earlier this month, Rep. Perlmutter said in a telephone town hall with local cannabis companies that he had been advocating for them to receive federal financial support in the upcoming coronavirus stimulus packages. He went on to add that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had voiced her support for the measure.
“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 executive director Aaron Smith said in a press release. “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.”