Marijuana lobby calls for relief from states

Marijuana lobby calls for relief from states
© Getty Images

The cannabis industry lobby urged governors to provide state-based loans for their businesses because cannabis companies are not eligible to receive funds from the coronavirus relief package.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), a $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress in March, prohibits businesses engaged in cannabis-related activity from receiving any small business loans.

Six groups, including the National Cannabis Industry Association and National Cannabis Roundtable, wrote a letter to state treasurers and governors to ask for their help on Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Like all essential businesses, cannabis businesses are facing significant uncertainty and costs to provide for our employees and to maintain the medical supply chain during this pandemic. Yet, unlike every other essential business, there is an underlying federal-state tension which puts our businesses in a uniquely vulnerable and dire operational and financial position. This is particularly true of our small and minority-owned businesses,” the groups wrote. 

The groups asked for the creation of a state-based lending or loan guarantee program for cannabis businesses to fill the gap that has been left without access to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster loans. They are calling for short-term liquidity for expenses, health care costs, paid sick leave and other things for economic relief. 

The groups also asked for local leaders to urge their states’ congressional delegations to include a provision in the next coronavirus relief package to make state-legal cannabis businesses eligible for the SBA program.

The letter highlighted that cannabis companies have donated personal protective equipment to first responders and medical workers, hired laid off workers from other industries and produced hand sanitizer.

It also noted that medical cannabis businesses have been deemed essential and many recreational cannabis stores are able to remain open.

Pot consumption in March hit a record high, with weekly sales growth at one point jumping the most since the beginning of 2019.

ADVERTISEMENT

Groups opposed to relaxing marijuana laws argue the government should not be providing aid to an industry that has been able to stay partially open during the pandemic.

“Lawmakers must not continue to bend their knee to this industry. Give federal money to those who need it, the millions unemployed, the healthcare workers fighting daily on the front line of this pandemic – not an industry celebrating record sales of supercharged, addictive weed in the midst of a nationwide crisis,” Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement Thursday.

Updated on April 10 at 10:26 a.m.