Marijuana businesses have been left between a rock and a hard place after the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) stated on Monday that marijuana companies aren’t eligible for relief to help cushion them against the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since the novel Coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China late last year, there have been over 450,000 confirmed cases and 21,000 deaths worldwide. Experts say that if the virus keeps spreading unabated, up to 70% of the world’s population might be infected before it runs its course. Understandably, countries have started implementing lockdown procedures to curb the spread of the disease.
This includes shutting down all but the most essential businesses, self-isolating, and personal distancing whenever you have to go out. And while these measures are essential during the pandemic, they have wreaked and will continue to wreak havoc on the economy. To help alleviate this, businesses meeting certain conditions will have access to disaster relief to help cushion the blow.
The marijuana industry, however, isn’t so lucky. Although several states have allowed marijuana within their borders, it still remains illegal at the federal level, and this denies it access to aid opportunities by federal agencies like the SBA.
“With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products that were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services,” stated a post by the agency’s Northwest branch in response to a tweet from a cannabis business owner inquiring about cannabis’ eligibility.
The SBA encouraged him to explore relief options provided by local or state agencies, stating that “even though federal law prohibits the SBA from providing direct assistance, there are great resources for small businesses from state and local sources.”
Carol Chastang, SBA public affairs specialist last week told the Cannabis Business Times that “because federal law prohibits the sale and distribution of cannabis, the SBA does not provide financial assistance to businesses that are illegal under federal law.” She goes on to say that businesses that aren’t eligible include marijuana growers and dispensaries and businesses that sell cannabis products, even if they are legal under state law.
This comes after a coalition of marijuana industry trade groups including the National Cannabis Industry Association National Cannabis Roundtable and the Cannabis Trade Federation signed a joint letter urging lawmakers to allow cannabis businesses access to disaster relief.
“The ineligibility of cannabis businesses for disaster relief assistance loans is especially inequitable given that these same businesses are required to comply with other Coronavirus related measures such as paid sick leave coverage,” state the letter in part.
“We are not seeking special treatment for state-legal cannabis businesses. We only seek to have them treated on an equal level as all other job-generating, tax-paying companies in this country.”
Experts believe that the news that cannabis businesses aren’t eligible for disaster relief will leave industry players like The Supreme Cannabis Company Inc. (TSX: FIRE) (OTCQX: SPRWF) wondering when the cannabis industry in the U.S. will ever get the equal treatment that it rightfully deserves.
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