At this time, it is safe to say that almost all of us know someone that has been directly affected by the recent outbreak of COVID-19. Many people across the nation and around the world have lost their ability to go to work and to provide for their families. During this health emergency, we are also starting to see truly the real essential workers among us. While we can all live without actors, actresses, and sports leagues we are quickly learning that we cannot live without health care providers, food service providers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, and for many of us, our local cannabis business employees.
During this time when we are seeing gyms, hair salons, bars, and many other businesses closing their doors cannabis businesses providing products to medical cannabis patients across the nation have been deemed essential. However, unfortunately, since cannabis is still considered highly illegal at the federal level the estimated 240,000 people that are employed in the US within legal state cannabis markets remain ineligible for nearly all other benefits offered by the federal government including emergency relief funds.
Calling On Lawmakers to Do What’s Right and Provide Aid
So, while these individuals are being deemed necessary, they do not have the same access to benefits that many others do. For this reason, a coalition of cannabis industry trade groups has sent a letter to leaders within the House and Senate calling on our lawmakers to remove these restrictions and allow provisions to open up doors for cannabis businesses to qualify for aid and assistance.
The letter was sent by members of the National Cannabis Industry Association, Cannabis Trade Federation, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, National Cannabis Roundtable, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association. You can find some quotes directly from the letter below.
“Our members follow strict regulations, create jobs, generate billions of dollars in tax revenue—including federal corporate tax revenue—and act as good corporate citizens,” the groups said. “Yet it appears as if these businesses will not be eligible for the same loans available to other businesses in this country at risk due to the global pandemic.”
“The ineligibility of cannabis businesses for disaster assistance loans is especially inequitable given that these same cannabis businesses are required to comply with other coronavirus-related measures, such as paid sick leave coverage. We are not seeking special treatment for state-legal cannabis businesses. We only seek to have them treated on an equal level as all other job-generating, tax-paying companies in this country.”
NORML Working to Do Their Part but the SBA is Blocked by Federal Laws
The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws AKA NORML also posted in a recent blog that they are reaching out to allies on Capitol Hill regarding the “tremendous amount of uncertainty in the broader economy” as well as the “hundreds of thousands of American workers that are employed by state-legal cannabis Industries” and calling for them to be “respected and protected by the emergency actions being taken by elected officials.”
After conferring with experts, NORML stated that the act recently signed into place that directs funding to state governments to help with the pandemic should provide the “individual states with the authority to decide for themselves which industries are legally eligible to receive benefits.” This puts the responsibility on lawmakers to amend rules at the state level to ensure that state legal compliant cannabis businesses are able to receive disaster relief aid.
Unfortunately, federal entities such as the Small Business Administration or SBA are forbidden from providing any sort of financial aid to companies operating in industries that are considered illegal under federal law. This means until this restriction is lifted, individuals within the cannabis sector will largely be unable to receive benefits during national emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.