Friday, April 17, 2020
Congressional Cannabis Caucus makes bipartisan call for state-legal cannabis businesses to be included in next COVID relief package
As detailed in this letter, a bipartisan group of US representatives are urging House Leadership to include state-legal cannabis businesses in COVID-19 relief efforts. Here are excerpts from the two-page missive addressed to Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy:
As you draft the next COVID-19 relief bill, we write to ask that you address one of the shortcomings of the CARES Act — the exclusion of state-legal cannabis businesses and their employees. The COVID-19 crisis response demands the full participation of the American people, businesses, and workforce. However, without relief, a very large population is left without the means to execute the required public health measures and continue to provide financially for their families.
The state-legal cannabis industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy and workforce, employing over 240,000 workers across 33 states and four territories, and generating $1.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2019.1,2 As states respond to the COVID-19 crisis by shuttering businesses to mitigate the virus’ spread, jurisdictions across the country have recognized cannabis businesses as “essential.” Essential businesses, in many places, can operate during the pandemic provided they abide by required public health safety measures. Like other businesses with continued operations, cannabis businesses have met the moment by preserving access to treatment for patients with chronic conditions, donating protective clothing, and manufacturing equipment for medical use. However, unlike other small businesses, cannabis businesses are not eligible for the CARES Act programs.
State-legal cannabis businesses need access to CARES Act programs to ensure they have the financial capacity to undertake the public health and worker-focused measures experts are urging businesses to take. This includes access to and participation in SBA’s loan programs — financial support that is designed to pay workers, group health care benefits, and family or sick leave. Current SBA policies prevent cannabis businesses from accessing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), EIDL grants, or SBA loan forgiveness – programs intended to help businesses fight COVID-19 in safe and equitable ways....
Given the nature of the epidemic, we must ensure that everyone has the capacity to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures. Without doing that, we risk undercutting the public health efforts nationwide. We ask that House leadership include provisions to allow state-legal cannabis businesses and the businesses who work with this industry to access the critical support they need during this unprecedented time.