Furthermore, current SBA policies prevent marijuana businesses from accessing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), EIDL grants, or SBA loan forgiveness – programs intended to help businesses fight COVID-19 in safe and equitable ways. Specifically, the PPP was designed to keep workers at America’s 30 million small businesses earning a paycheck during this time of uncertainty. Workers in the state-legal marijuana industry are no different than other sectors of the economy who show up to work every day to provide for their families. If marijuana businesses are unable to survive, the lives of millions of patients registered in state medical marijuana programs and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of marijuana workers will be under threat.
Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia provide legal access to medical marijuana and 11 states plus the District of Columbia provides legal access for adult-use. At the federal level, the Marijuana Justice Coalition has worked to advance the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill in Congress, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act2, which would end federal prohibition of marijuana, and take measures to repair the harms faced disproportionately by Black, Latinx, and low-income communities. In addition to ensuring that communities directly impacted by racially biased overenforcement are centered in federal marijuana reform, the Marijuana Justice Coalition also prioritizes ensuring that the industry is as diverse and inclusive of directly impacted communities as possible. Until broader national reforms can be enacted, it is vital that immediate action is taken to protect small businesses – namely businesses owned and operated by people of color and people directly impacted by the war on drugs – operating in this industry. This will ensure that underrepresented business owners are able to survive this economic hit in an industry in which they are already under-resourced.
Now more than ever, if we are to provide pathways of opportunity and ownership for communities that have been historically targeted and marginalized under the senseless and cruel policies of marijuana criminalization, Congress must protect these small businesses in order to ensure a level playing field in these emerging markets. Financial relief must be extended to these businesses that a majority of governors and other government officials have deemed “essential” at this moment.
It is our hope that you will support changes in the next COVID-19 legislative package that will allow state- licensed small businesses access to these resources so that they may protect the workers and communities they serve.
Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.
The Marijuana Justice Coalition