Democrats Push to Provide COVID-19 relief to Marijuana Businesses

COVID-19 relief

Congressional Democrats introduced legislation, the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act, to include marijuana businesses in the federal COVID-19 relief aid to benefit small businesses. 

Introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the proposed bill would make legal marijuana businesses eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and other federal aid. A $483 billion interim COVID-19 relief package, which will replenish the small-business lending program, is set to pass in the House today, but it excludes marijuana companies from receiving any aid; the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act would change that.

Rep. Perlmutter has been vocal about his intentions to normalize legitimate marijuana businesses. In 2013, Perlmutter introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act that sought to protect medical and adult-use cannabis-based businesses from being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice for the conflicting federal and state laws regarding marijuana, which is still classified federally as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act. The SAFE Banking Act historically passed in the House in 2019 and is waiting to go before the Senate later this year. 

On April 17, 2020, Blumenauer and Perlmutter drafted a letter, signed by over three dozen members of Congress, asking House leadership to include legitimate marijuana businesses in the next 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.

Other cosponsors of the new legislation include Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Don Young (R-AK), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Debra Haaland (D-NM), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).