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Senators Harris, Sanders, Warren and More Request Federal Support for Cannabis Companies During COVID-19


Cannabis companies have been locked out of federal support due to cannabis remaining illegal under federal law, but 10 senators are working to change that.

A letter signed by Senators Michael Bennet, Catherine Cortez Masto, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Jacky Rosen, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, and Elizabeth Warren was sent to Congressional leaders last week requesting future COVID-19-related economic relief packages allow cannabis businesses to receive the support of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA).

“SBA’s current regulations exclude small businesses with ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ products or services that aid the use, growth, enhancement, or other development of cannabis from SBA-backed financing, including PPP and EIDL,” the letter reads. “Consequently, small business owners in states with some form of legal cannabis must choose between remaining eligible for SBA loan programs, or doing business with or in a rapidly-growing and legal industry.”

The 10 senators also mount a defense of cannabis business as small businesses just like any other: “Workers at state-legal cannabis small businesses are no different from workers at any other small business—they show up to work every day, perform their duties, and most importantly, work to provide for their families.,” the letter reads. “Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their community and workforce. Therefore, we ask Senate Leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

The letter is written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. In the past, Schumer has called for a federal decriminalization of cannabis and supported the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act which would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances. McConnell, meanwhile, has generally opposed cannabis reform though he has been supportive of hemp in part because it is a cash crop in his native Kentucky. Senators Sanders and Warren, who signed the letter, both ran for president with by far the most progressive approaches to cannabis—The Outlaw Report ranked them at the top of our “2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Views on Cannabis: A Guide”.

Last month, a letter was sent to the House and Senate and signed by the Cannabis Trade Federation, the National Cannabis Industry Association, National Cannabis Roundtable, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, and Minority Cannabis Business Association that asked that the restriction be removed so that cannabis businesses can qualify for federal assistance: “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,” the letter read.

And earlier this month, 34 members of the House of Representatives—both Democrats and Republicans—wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, regarding COVID-19 relief for cannabis companies. 

An article from Marijuana Business Daily noted that large-scale lobbying by the cannabis industry and public letter did not result in any stimulus support for cannabis companies so far, but the focus is now on the upcoming fourth stimulus package.

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