Lawmakers Seek to Expand CARE Act Funding for Cannabis Industries

Lawmakers seek to expand CARE Act funding for Cannabis Industries

As we have all seen by now, the Coronavirus has affected nearly all aspects of our lives. From where we may travel to what we may do, the outbreak of this virus has put a severe strain on businesses of all shapes and sizes. The cannabis industry is not exempt from this.

Over the past several months, cannabis businesses have been struggling with the appropriate way to both continue serving their clients and taking care of their employees, all while trying to follow their state’s social distancing and shelter in place orders. While many businesses are still open as essential services, the financial strain is beginning to show for many.

Making the situation worse, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is unavailable to both cannabis and cannabis related industries.

Last month, the federal Small Business Association (SBA) confirmed that both cannabis and indirect cannabis businesses are ineligible for newly enacted relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides forgivable loans to businesses who employ less than 500 employees.

In response to the much-needed assistance, a coalition of 34 members of Congress have sent a letter to House leadership asking them to expand CARE Act assistance for cannabis and cannabis related industries. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) spearheaded the letter with support from others, including Maine’s own 1st Congressional District Representative Chellie Pingree.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is no time to permit federal policy to stand in the way of the reality that millions of Americans in states across the country face daily—that state-legal cannabis businesses are sources of economic growth and financial stability for thousands of workers and families, and need our support.” They said.

Lawmakers point out that cannabis workers are no different than others working in permitted areas.

“Workers at state-legal cannabis businesses are no different from workers at any other small business—they show up to work every day, perform their duties, and most importantly, work to provide for their families.” Wrote lawmakers who sent the leader to House leadership on both sides of the aisle.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), hopes to see language in the next round of Coronavirus relief that will expand cannabis businesses access to banking and banking services and a similar letter, is expected to be sent to Senate leadership in the coming weeks.

Although cannabis businesses are experiencing financial strain, it is a bright spot to see that representatives, including those here in Maine, are working diligently to advocate on behalf of these businesses and their employees during this stressful time.

Joe Boisvert
Law Clerk, Cohen Law Maine