Cannabis industry continues to struggle as federal stimulus remains elusive during coronavirus pandemic
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the country, causing economic and financial drain on millions of Americans, the federal government has had to step in and help with an economic stimulus package. However, due to the contradictory nature of marijuana being legal at the state level and prohibited nationwide, the cannabis industry has not been able to benefit from these funds.
According to a recent article in Newsweek, some of these businesses may not be able to survive. Although some governors have labeled cannabis as an “essential business,” allowing pot shops to stay open for curbside pickups and deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic, the stay-at-home orders have left many dispensaries struggling.
"There's no relief for us, unlike any other business in the country. We're probably in about as tough a spot as you can be in," Brandon Pollock, co-owner and CEO of the recreational and medicinal marijuana dispensary Theory Wellness in Massachusetts, told Newsweek.
Pollock’s company has seen sales decline as much as 90 percent, in no small part because of Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, one of the few state leaders who saw fit not to label cannabis as an essential business.
"We're not asking for a handout. We would be more than happy to pay the money back, but it's very tough to get loans in the cannabis industry," Pollock told Newsweek. "For us, it's just a fairness situation. We pay millions of dollars a year in federal taxes. We should be able to receive help just like any other taxpaying business."
According to Newsweek, cannabis businesses have seen no relief from the federal government, and there is none in sight. Even those in ancillary businesses that don’t touch the plant, like lawyers and accountants, are having trouble finding financial assistance.
"It's leaving a lot of companies out in the woods," said Morgan Fox, media relations director at the National Cannabis Industry Association in an interview with Newsweek.
Members of Congress are trying to help. Last week, over 40 members of Congress asked the Small Business Administration to grant access to loans to small marijuana businesses. However, whether that happens remains to be seen, as the SBA still seems hostile to the cannabis industry.
“With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services,” noted the SBA.
Still, the cannabis industry hasn’t given up hope.
"Over 60 percent of the country has real legal businesses and real employees who are being negatively affected by the lockdown," Mark Gorman, executive vice president and COO of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses, told Newsweek. "There's no reason that these people should be treated as second-class citizens and businesses, and we're hoping that Congress sees it that way too."