A Massachusetts legislative committee held a virtual hearing on May 5th 2020 to gather opinions from interested parties in regards to a bill that would launch a state-level Covid-19 relief program for cannabis businesses, which have been left out of federal aid.
The proposition, which was discussed by the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses, addresses a problem the cannabis industry has been dealing with since the pandemic’s outbreak. Namely, the fact that any businesses specifically related to the sector are prevented from receiving congressionally authorized aid due to ongoing prohibition. The committee’s chair, Senator Diana DiZoglio, is backing the legislation . The issue at hand is especially relevant in Massachusetts, where only medical cannabis dispensaries are classified as essential services, leaving out those involved in the recreational side. Multiple companies across the US have seen themselves forced to leave employees at home and halt all operations. As a result, many businesses are losing enormous amounts of revenues, while still incurring in all company-related costs, a situation that may end up jeopardizing the very existence of these enterprises.
The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) confirmed in April that the cannabis industry isn’t eligible for its relief program, prompting pressures, from various sides of the sector, to reform requirements for stimulus programs. In doing this, the SBA ignored the letters, sent by various senators and Congress members, urging to reform the language in COVID-19 legislation to include cannabis businesses in the relief program.
Although a vote on the proposal remains yet unscheduled, DiZoglio declared that they would tackle the matter again very soon.
“Our small businesses […] face a one-size-fits-all attempt at relief by the federal government, which doesn’t take into account the unique commercial makeup and different recovery timelines of individual states,” DiZoglio said. “It’s up to the Commonwealth to close the gaps for all of our small businesses and to provide equitable relief in the absence of that relief from the federal government.”
Under the proposed legislation, a public agency would be in charge of developing regulations for the state service within 30 days of the bill’s passing. The bill does not make explicit mention of cannabis businesses; however, they constitute the perfect example of an industry left out from the federal relief that would fit requirements proposed in the Massachusetts program.
Source: The Boston Globe