Keeping pace with the ever changing state and federal regulations of being a cannabis employer is complicated. A misstep can be financially devastating.

Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act of 2020

By Shelby Kier |  Sept 30, 2020

Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act of 2020.

Nearly all businesses were negatively impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. This fact is true for the cannabis industry as well. At present, Cannabis related businesses have not been able to fully reap the benefits of Federal assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, that could change soon. In fact, under a new congressional bill, marijuana-related businesses could get disaster relief under the Federal Government. 

While marijuana businesses were negatively impacted by the global pandemic or experienced financial distressed, they were not eligible to access the federal relief programs that other businesses were able to take advantage of. Under new legislation, that could change based on a bill introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate. 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has denied the industry access to its relief programs because the cannabis industry remains prohibited on the Federal level. This means that when disaster strikes, these types of businesses do not have access to relief programs. This includes the major pandemic that everyone is familiar with or the huge fires that recently occurred in Oregon and California. Imagine having no access to help your business after a natural disasters strike. This is the reality for the Cannabis Industry business owners. 

The new Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act of 2020, presented by Senator Ron Wyden, would solve the before mentioned problem. The Act stipulates that disaster-related (including COVID-19 related financial setbacks) services will be available to the Cannabis Industry. These services include grants, loans, and tax benefits that have been made available to other industries that have been legitimized on the Federal level. 

The fires in Oregon, while never invited, are entirely ill-timed. During the global pandemic, the use of recreational marijuana/sales increased more than 30 percent above forecast. The consumer demand for marijuana products have gone up during the pandemic which means that the fires have caused a huge setback for the industry that was already working against the federal government assistant programs, or lack thereof. Those businesses in the affected areas currently have no access to financial assistance for monetary loss caused by the local fires.

It is Senator Ron Wyden’s intent to change this discrepancy between assistance available to cannabis business and those recognized Federally. Wyden (D-OR) has the support of Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) who filed the companion bills. With previous support, Wyden similarly led a letter with 9 other senators in April, pleading for the chamber’s leadership to extend that the same programs be available to the Cannabis industry that are federally available to other industries. Civil rights groups and other industry giants have also made these types of requests from the Federal Government in the recent months but have been met with relative unresponsiveness.

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