Financial distress as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters in states like Colorado, California, and Oregon has prompted new legislation to be introduced in the House of Representatives that would make cannabis businesses eligible for federal relief programs.
As the purchase and sale of cannabis products remains illegal on the federal level, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has denied the industry access to relief programs that other markets can benefit from. Without assistance from the SBA to this point, states have been forced to rely on state and local assistance as their only means of refuge.
That’s why The House introduced the Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act, which states that grants, loans, and tax benefits would be made available to cannabis retailers affected by COVID-19 or natural disasters.
The Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act stipulates that cannabis businesses cannot be denied the benefits made available through federal agencies and congressional legislation due to the nature of their work.
Senators and representatives from the state of Oregon (of which was highly affected by the wildfires that have ravaged the West Coast) have asserted that as long as cannabis businesses are in compliance with state laws, they should not be legally denied access to relief programs that could mitigate potential losses.
Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon argued that outdated policies handed down by Washington D.C are not consistent with the modern economy. In a state like Oregon, where the cannabis industry employs thousands and is an important economic boost for the state, leaving the cannabis industry to fight for itself could be devastating to its economy.
20 percent of cannabis businesses in Oregon were encouraged to evacuate because of the fires, with at least seven businesses totally destroyed due to the natural disaster. With similar challenges being incurred in legalized states across the country, the House will have to move quickly if adequate relief is to arrive on a timely basis.