While many companies gain access to coronavirus aid funds, the cannabis industry has been left out due to federal restrictions. A group of federal lawmakers are pushing for new laws that would give some small cannabis companies access to coronavirus aid.
Lawmakers in states where marijuana is legal are pushing for a bill that allows cannabis companies access to COVID-19 relief funds that other industries are receiving. On April 23, MPs Earl Blumenauer (OR-D) and Ed Perlmutter (CO-D) introduced laws that would call cannabis companies into question for COVID-19 aid programs from the Small Businesses Administration (SBA).
As Congress seeks to provide relief to small businesses across America, it is largely excluding government-licensed cannabis companies that are essential to the communities and have met the needs of this crisis, Rep. Blumenauer, Founder and Co-Chair of Cannabis Congress Caucus said in a statement. We should include state-legal cannabis in the federal COVID-19 response efforts.
On March 27, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Aid and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides emergency relief and health care to individuals, families and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the act, the SBA received $ 350 billion in funding to adjust existing loan programs and create a new loan program to help small businesses across the country affected by the COVID-19 emergency.
The marijuana industry is not eligible for emergency aid because marijuana is illegal at the federal level. In response, lawmakers introduced the Emergency Health and Safety of Cannabis Small Businesses Act, which aims to ensure that cannabis businesses are included in the federal COVID-19 aid fund for small businesses.
The legislation would allow state-licensed cannabis companies access to three specific support services of the Small Business Administration (SBA): the Paycheck Protection Program, the Catastrophe Credit Program for Economic Injury, and the Catastrophe Credit Program for Economic Injury.
A collection of non-partisan cosponsors in support of the law sent a letter to the leaders of Congress urging them to take action. According to the letter, the cannabis industry employed 240,000 workers across the country and generated $ 1.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2019.
State-legal cannabis companies need access to CARES Act programs to ensure they have the financial capacity to maintain public health, and worker-centric interventions that experts are urging companies to take. This includes access to and participation in SBA loan programs, financial assistance to pay for workers, group health benefits, and family or sick leave, wrote Blumenauer and the other lawmakers.
You can find the full text of the invoice here.
Marijuana excluded from federal COVID-19 relief fund
Back in March, the SBA confirmed that cannabis companies outside the hemp industry are not entitled to government aid.
With the exception of companies that manufacture or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related companies are not eligible for SBA-funded services (OMB, 2 C.F.R. 200,300).
SBA Pacific NW (@SBAPacificNW) March 23, 2020
Not only are companies that work directly in the cannabis industry ineligible, but companies that work indirectly with the industry are not eligible for the CARES bill, which Trump signed last month. The law provides for a paycheck protection program that gives companies employing 500 people with fewer employees a significant amount of forgivable loans.
The law includes a section that describes businesses that are not eligible for relief, including businesses that engage in activities that are illegal under federal, state, or local law.
Cannabis remains illegal under federal law and is listed as a controlled substance on Appendix I despite eleven states and the District of Columbia that legalizes full access to cannabis, along with the 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana.
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