Members of Congress from both sides of the political fence are pushing for the marijuana industry to be included in the next round of government coronavirus relief funds and made a formal request in a letter addressed to House of Representative leaders Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The letter was sent by a bipartisan group of 34 members of Congress spearheaded by the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which is led by House of Representative members Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Barbara Lee of California, Don Young of Alaska and Tom McClintock of California, according to a report in Marijuana Business Daily.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is no time to permit federal policy to stand in the way of the reality that … state-legal cannabis businesses are sources of economic growth and financial stability for thousands of workers and families, and need our support,” the letter stated.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress in March. Businesses engaged in cannabis-related activity are barred from receiving any related loans.
“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,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “… 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.”
A similar letter to Senate leadership, led by Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada is expected to be sent out this week, according to Marijuana Moment.
“Cannabis businesses are essential to many communities around the country,” Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment. “We cannot be selective about which small businesses receive relief as the COVID-19 pandemic cripples our economy. This is yet another example of the federal government falling behind the states on cannabis. While we continue our fight to reform discriminatory, harmful, and out-of-touch cannabis policies, the fight for the state-legal cannabis industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of Americans, continues.”
The PPP has exhausted its $349 billion in loans to keep SMBs afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic. SBA Regional Administrator Ashley Bell said many of the most fragile mom-and-pop businesses were unable to secure a loan before the money ran out.