WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) yesterday and eight other senators, including Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), sent a letter to Congressional lawmakers calling for pandemic economic relief packages to “allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and indirect cannabis small businesses to access emergency loan and grant programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA),” according to a press release on Senator Wyden’s website.
Other senators who signed the letter included Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
The letter noted legal cannabis businesses currently are excluded from relief programs including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) that are part of the federal stimulus funding provided in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
“The cannabis industry supports more than 240,000 workers in the United States, spanning thirty-three states and the District of Columbia. Some of these jobs have already been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, and there is significant risk of greater job loss in the coming months. Many cannabis businesses are small-to-medium size operators, and some have been ordered to close to comply with state public health safety measures without having access to the same support systems in place as other small businesses in different sectors,” the letter to Congressional Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer read.
“Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic well-being of their community and workforce. Therefore, we ask Senate leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times,” the Senators added.
Cannabis law reform advocacy group NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) stated in a release:
“With the majority of regulated states designating medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the health and welfare of the community during this time of crisis, it is critical that Congress authorizes the Small Business Association to similarly recognize their importance and to allow the agency to provide these small businesses with economic assistance to ensure public health, patient access, and continuity of care,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said.
“Many of these establishments are small-to-medium size operators, with their employees keeping their doors open without access to the support systems in place for other businesses, thus depriving them of potentially lifesaving protections,” he added.
Following the letter to Congress, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) today introduced legislation, titled The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act. The bill “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).”
“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,” Rep. Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said 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,” Rep. Perlmutter added.