Two Congressmen have introduced a bill in Washington DC that would make it legal for cannabis businesses to get a piece of the $483 billion interim coronavirus aid package approved last week.
The Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans excluded marijuana companies from receiving any financial aid. Both Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) hope to change that in the third aid package under debate.
“As Congress seeks to provide relief to small businesses across America, chief among those being left out are state-legal cannabis businesses that are essential to communities and have met the demands of this crisis,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “We should include state-legal cannabis in federal COVID-19 response efforts. Without providing these businesses the relief needed to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures, we are putting these hard-working people — and ourselves — at risk.”
Cannabis lobbyists have been pushing congress to include cannabis companies in future relief rounds since the Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March. Cannabis remains a federal schedule I prohibited drug, one of the reasons Congress has declined to cover cannabis in the aid packages. Other schedule I drugs include heroin, and LSD.
Congress already is in talks about crafting a third coronavirus relief bill. But the timing remains murky. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it will not be negotiated until the Senate is able to return in full and debate.
The National Association of Cannabis Businesses, in a statement last week, saying group would continue advocating for financial relief for the cannabis industry. But the anti-marijuana lobby is pushing back upset that provisioning centers have remained open and thrived during the pandemic, while other business have been forced to close.
“This bill should be a complete nonstarter in Congress. Record levels of Americans are finding themselves unemployed as businesses nationwide have been forced to close their doors in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19,” Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement on Thursday.
Sabet added: ”One notable exception to business closures has been the marijuana industry, which has quite publicly strong-armed leaders into reversing course on closures and even common sense limits on operations.”
Congressmen Blumenauer and Perlmutter read a letter last week, signed by dozens of members of Congress, asking House leaders to include cannabis businesses in the next COVID-19 aid package.
“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 letter read.