Uncounted small businesses have rushed to seek relief from the Paycheck Protection Program and other programs built into the massive Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). So many applied, in fact, that the loan program exhausted its $350 million pool of funds almost immediately. Congress is seeking to extend the funding, a process delayed by the usual partisan bickering.
Where does that leave the cannabis industry? On the outside looking in. Even if funding were available, the CARES Act prohibits distribution of funds to businesses that are illegal at the federal level … which cannabis still is. Never mind the millions of people who depend on medicinal marijuana for relief of a wide range of symptoms.
Even worse, companies with cannabis-industry businesses as clients, specifically law firms, are barred from receiving funds as well, in a sort of guilt by association. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) classifies such companies as “indirect marijuana businesses.” Nice. The International Cannabis Bar Association has asked Congress to reconsider.
There may be help on the way, though. This past Friday 34 members of Congress signed a letter and delivered it to House Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy. The letter, which originated in the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus, urges that the cannabis industry be included in any future relief funding.
The letter notes that the industry is “a major contributor to the U.S. economy,” employing 240,000 people and accounting for almost $2 billion in state and local tax revenues last year alone. It further notes the many states who have declared cannabis an essential industry during the current shutdown.
Notably, the 34 signers of the letter represent both sides of the aisle, which may be a positive sign. Let’s hope Congress gets this right the second time around.
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