by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
The last few weeks have been difficult for everyone, and most people are justifiably concerned about what the future holds for their health, safety, and livelihoods. This is certainly the case in the cannabis industry, so we wanted to provide an update about where things stand regarding cannabis businesses and federal relief.
As the debate over the most recent federal coronavirus aid package was raging, NCIA and our allies were working tirelessly to urge members of Congress to make legal cannabis businesses eligible for loans and direct payments. A coalition of trade groups also sent a letter to congressional leadership and key committees specifically asking them to include cannabis businesses in consideration for loans through the Small Business Administration.
Unfortunately – but understandably – lawmakers were more concerned with providing assistance to all Americans in need as quickly as possible, and did not incorporate many requests related to special issues and disproportionately impacted industries. However, we received a lot of positive feedback from a number of congressional offices.
As things currently stand, individual cannabis industry employees who filed taxes last year should be eligible for the direct household payments included in the latest relief legislation as long as they meet the standard criteria. It may also be possible for states to use some of the funds they receive from the federal government to support the industry. But for the time being, cannabis businesses are not eligible for SBA loans or direct federal funding.
This battle is far from over though. Congress is in recess until the end of April, at which point efforts will commence on approving the next stage of coronavirus relief funding. Rest assured, NCIA’s dedicated Government Relations and Public Policy team is working night and day to make sure that the cannabis industry is included in the next round of funding so that we can continue to provide our communities – particularly medical cannabis patients – with the safe and reliable access they need. In addition to pushing for SBA loans and direct funding eligibility, we are also exploring ways to remedy some of the other financial problems caused by outdated federal policies, as well as urging state governments and regulators to continue to allow some form of cannabis access for the duration of the pandemic response.
At a time when cannabis businesses are being increasingly recognized as a vital component of public health and economic well-being, they deserve to be treated fairly and have access to the same benefits other businesses are receiving. We will keep you posted on any developments, and please contact your members of Congress to respectfully request that they explicitly include the cannabis industry in future federal aid packages.