Democrats in the House want relief funds for cannabis industry

A $483 billion interim coronavirus relief package excludes cannabis companies from receiving aid

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U.S. legislation designed to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 crisis has so far ignored the cannabis industry, but two Democratic lawmakers are hoping to change that.

A US$483 billion interim coronavirus aid package, which will replenish the country’s small-business lending program, is set to pass in the House of Representatives today, but it excludes cannabis companies from receiving aid.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) have introduced a bill to make legal cannabis businesses eligible for this type of relief aid.

Last week, the pair spearheaded a letter, which was signed by dozens of members of Congress, asking that House leaders include these businesses in the interim coronavirus 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.

In a statement, Blumenauer said, “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. 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.”

The legal status of cannabis could prove to be a roadblock. Medical use is legalized in 33 states, four out of five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The recreational use of cannabis is legalized in 11 states and decriminalized in another 16 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

At the federal level, however, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970—which defines it as “having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment.”

Until that status changes, cannabis businesses face an uphill battle accessing federal relief funds, even with the likes of Blumenauer and Permutter on their side.

 

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