- A Group of 34 Lawmakers Are Lobbying to Have Cannabis-Related Businesses Included in the New COVID-19 Relief Bill
- The Group Stated Their Case to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
- Nancy Pelosi, Recently Called for the Inclusion of Language in the Upcoming Coronavirus Stimulus Bill That Would Provide Cannabis Businesses with Increased Access to Banking Services
Federal disaster relief is being rolled out to a range of industries in the U.S. impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but as it stands, cannabis businesses have not been included. A group of 34 members of Congress — from all political stripes — are working to change that.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers — led by the Democratic Congressman from Oregon, Earl Blumenauer — is calling on congressional leaders in the House to include cannabis businesses in the next COVID-19 stimulus bill.
“The state-legal cannabis industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy and workforce, employing over 240,000 workers across 33 states and four territories, and generating $1.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2019,” stated the group of lawmakers. “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.”
Democratic Senator from Nevada, Jacky Rosen, is working on a similar letter to Senate leadership, which is still being circulated for signatures and expected to be released in the coming days. Rosen has actually been pushing for the inclusion of SBA access for cannabis businesses since before the COVID-19 pandemic — raising the issue during a committee hearing last year.
SBA Fails to Recognize Cannabis-Related Small Businesses
Currently, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has prohibited cannabis companies — including those businesses working indirectly with cannabis companies, such as law firms and accounting firms — from accessing any federal loan or lending programs, including coronavirus-related relief packages.
Lawmakers and industry experts maintain that despite cannabis-related businesses being designated as essential services at the state level, the cannabis market is facing severe economic risk due to widespread ‘stay at home’ and social distancing orders. As a growing segment of state economies and a source of employment for tens of thousands of workers, lawmakers and experts are arguing that the cannabis industry rightfully deserves access to SBA relief during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Like other businesses with continued operations, cannabis businesses have met the moment by preserving access to treatment for patients with chronic conditions, donating protective clothing, and manufacturing equipment for medical use,” stated the lawmakers. “However, unlike other small businesses, cannabis businesses are not eligible for the CARES Act programs.”
The Cannabis Industry is Essential — and Needs Support Now
The group of 34 bipartisan lawmakers have made their position clear: cannabis is an engine for economic growth, an essential source of financial stability, and needs the same support extended to other industries.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is no time to permit federal policy to stand in the way of the reality that millions of Americans in states across the country face daily—that state-legal cannabis businesses are sources of economic growth and financial stability for thousands of workers and families, and need our support,” stated the lawmakers. “Given the nature of the epidemic, we must ensure that everyone has the capacity to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures. Without doing that, we risk undercutting the public health efforts nationwide.”
Earl Blumenauer, Barbara Lee, Don Young, and Tom McClintock — along with the remainder of the 34 lawmakers lobbying to include cannabis-related businesses in the new COVID-19 stimulus bill — also stated their case to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has called for the inclusion of language increasing the access of cannabis businesses to banking services in the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill.
“Workers at state-legal cannabis businesses are no different from workers at any other small business—they show up to work every day, perform their duties, and most importantly, work to provide for their families,” the lawmakers wrote to Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “This lack of access will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary layoffs, reduced hours, pay cuts, and furloughs for the workers of cannabis businesses who need support the most.”
Congressman Earl Blumenauer clarified his position in a statement to Marijuana Moment, highlighting the urgent need to support the fast-growing cannabis industry, and the frustrating reality that federal policy is again failing to keep up with state-level cannabis regulations.
“Cannabis businesses are essential to many communities around the country. We cannot be selective about which small businesses receive relief as the COVID-19 pandemic cripples our economy,” stated Blumenauer. “This is yet another example of the federal government falling behind the states on cannabis. While we continue our fight to reform discriminatory, harmful, and out-of-touch cannabis policies, the fight for the state-legal cannabis industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of Americans, continues.”