A new bill has been introduced to Congress by a team of Democratic senators who think it’s unfair that cannabis businesses in legal states are excluded from federal aid while other businesses in the state are able to get a leg up with government-funded help.

Like all other businesses, they have been hit by the COVID pandemic, as business practices have been disrupted and sales have been affected. Now, they are being hit again by wildfires, which have harmed some outdoor grows. 

“Cannabis businesses in Oregon hurt by the blazing wildfires or any other disaster shouldn’t be shut out from federal relief simply because the federal government is stuck in yesteryear,” said Senator Ron Wyden, according to a press release sent out about the newly introduced bill. “These legal small businesses employ thousands of workers and support our struggling economy. If they need federal support, they should get it. Full stop.”

The Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act

The bill, backed by Senators Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., is known as the Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act. If passed and turned into law, it would prohibit businesses from being denied on the basis of being affiliated with cannabis.                                                                        

“Whether you’re for or against state-legal cannabis, we can all agree that families in all of our communities are struggling to keep the lights on and stay afloat during this turbulent time—and that they need and deserve support,” said Merkley about the purpose behind the measure. “That includes thousands of small business owners, workers and their families who rely on state-legal cannabis businesses for their livelihoods. We have to make sure those families won’t be shut out from critical assistance that can make a real difference.”

“Many of Oregon’s state-legal cannabis businesses have faced catastrophic disruptions because of wildfires. There’s no reason why these legitimate businesses shouldn’t have access to the federal support meant to help businesses survive unprecedented disasters,” added Blumenauer in the press statement. “Our legislation will help ensure these businesses and their workers are not left behind.”If the bill passes into law, it would be backdated to include any businesses affected by disasters starting January 1 of 2020, which would apply to most in the U.S. This would make it possible for businesses to apply retroactively for aid.

“It’s ridiculous that legal businesses here in Oregon are being denied critical wildfire aid because of outdated policies handed down from Washington, D.C.” said DeFazio. “Cannabis businesses employ thousands across Oregon and are a vital economic engine for our state. This important legislation will ensure that these businesses are eligible for the same aid as every other business impacted by the 2020 wildfires.”

While this bill won’t insure that cannabis companies won’t be excluded on other bases, it would make it impossible for them to be excluded from federal aid simply on the basis of their market. The retroactive funding associated with the bill would provide relief for businesses across the country hurt by the economic downturn.

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