Senators Call For the Cannabis Industry to be Included in COVID-19 Stimulus

Senators including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have signed a bill calling for COVID-19 stimulus money to also support the cannabis industry.

Since March, 26.5 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits in order to counteract their financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many labeling the crisis a new economic Depression.

In response to the economic downturn, the U.S. government enacted an unprecedented and audacious stimulus package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) which is set to inject over USD $2 trillion back into the economy in attempts to mitigate further economic fallout.

The stimulus package was welcomed by many within the U.S., however, the cannabis industry was informed that they would not be included within the bill, meaning that weed companies would have to stand on their own two feet. While the cannabis industry isn't unfamiliar with financial restrictions and impediments (due to the federal illegality of the plant), the denial of access to federal funding came as a blow to the industry, who had not only suffered in the form of furloughs and other economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic but who had also been deemed "essential" stores during the pandemic.

Admittedly cannabis dispensaries have shown strong sales amid the pandemic, highlighting their significance to the medical and broader community for recreational consumption, though dispensaries represent just one aspect of the totality of the cannabis industry, and without access to financial support during this time, many cannabis companies are looking down the barrel of extinction.

As such, a group of high-profile senators gathered to write a letter to Congress, urging them to include cannabis companies into the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) which the industry are currently ineligible for.

The senators included Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and others, and urged Congress to: "allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and indirect cannabis small businesses to access emergency loan and grant programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA),"

The letter went on to say that "the cannabis industry supports more than 240,000 workers in the United States, spanning thirty-three states and the District of Columbia. Some of these jobs have already been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, and there is a significant risk of greater job loss in the coming months."

"Many cannabis businesses are small-to-medium size operators, and some have been ordered to close to comply with state public health safety measures without having access to the same support systems in place as other small businesses in different sectors."

The letter prompted action on the part of Earl Blumenauer, founder, and co-chairman of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus who has since introduced legislation titled 'The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act.'

The bill seeks to prevent "cannabis businesses and those that provide services to them from being excluded from further federal relief funding provided through the Small Business Administration (SBA)."

"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," Rep. Blumenauer said.

"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," Rep. Perlmutter concluded.

Whether cannabis is indeed included in the upcoming phases of stimulus provided by the U.S. Federal Government remains to be seen, though the industry has several positives going for it that may encourage legislators to include cannabis in the bill.

The cannabis industry has been the #1 job creator in the U.S. for several years now, in addition to generating over a billion dollars for early-mover states like Colorado, and already generating over $100 million in sales for Illinois in the 3 months since the State made cannabis legal.

Furthermore, as we mentioned, cannabis dispensaries have been deemed essential amid the crisis, and have seen strong sales during recent months too – showing their capacity to help revivify the economy.

Should cannabis companies be included in the upcoming stimulus package, this will be another legislative step forward for the industry, further cementing their legitimacy in the U.S. economy.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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