A group of 11 Democratic lawmakers is calling for cannabis businesses to be allowed to receive economic assistance from the Small Business Administration in the midst of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. In a letter sent to the chairman and vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and other leadership on March 26, the senators called on “the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government to include language in … forthcoming legislation to help extend SBA loan programs to legal cannabis businesses.”

Because of marijuana’s continuing classification as a Schedule I drug, licensed cannabis companies are excluded from receiving federal assistance from the SBA. Additionally, “SBA’s current policy excludes small businesses with “direct” or “indirect” products or services that aid the use, growth, enhancement, or other development of cannabis from SBA-backed financing,” the letter reads.

“Consequently, small businesses in states with some form of legal cannabis must choose between remaining eligible for SBA loan programs, or doing business with a rapidly-growing and legal industry,” the senators added.

Noting that “there has been a clear shift in public opinion toward supporting the legalization of cannabis in the United States,” they called for legislative provisions that would allow marijuana companies access to SBA loan programs.

Specifically, the senators wrote that marijuana businesses should be eligible for SBA programs including the Loan Guarantee Program, the Disaster Assistance Program, and the Microloan Program. Justin Strekal, the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement that cannabis businesses should not be excluded from federal assistance during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this time of crisis and unprecedented federal support for the economy, Congress should not allow all of the small and midsize cannabis businesses to be excluded by the SBA,” Strekal said. “Be it in the appropriations package or the next round of stimulus, this is a common-sense solution that will help protect jobs in 33 states and provide much needed support to Main Street small businesses.”

NORML also notes that it has recently been working with members of Congress on legislation to reform barriers to legal cannabis businesses, including The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, which would “prohibit the Small Business Administration from declining to provide certain small business loans to an eligible entity solely because it is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

The letter to Senate leadership calling for help for cannabis business from the SBA was signed by Senators Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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