Cannabis legislation and the coronavirus update as of May 2020.
As the world adapts to eradicate COVID-19, lawmakers from the United States have not forgotten the cannabis industry. Although relief to other small businesses has been rolled out by the federal government in the form of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), traditional 7(a) loans, 504 loans, and microloans, businesses dealing with cannabis are barred from national financial assistance as cannabis is still considered “federally illegal”. To remedy this issue, the “Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act” was introduced on April 23rd in the House by Representatives Blumenauer (D-OR) and Perlmutter (D-CO). This Act aims to open up the multi-trillion-dollar stimulus packages for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 to include state-legal medical and recreational cannabis businesses. If passed in by Congress, the “Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act” will then need to be approved by the Senate.
State-by-State Cannabis Legislation and the Coronavirus
On the state level, in Massachusetts, a virtual hearing was held May 5th for the legislative committee regarding a bill to create an aid program for MMJ businesses, as well as other companies, left behind by federal aid packages. Although other states deemed both medical and recreational cannabis essential, Massachusetts uniquely allowed medical dispensaries to stay open but temporarily closed recreational stores. If approved, a public agency will cultivate regulations within 30 days of the enactment of the bill. Another proposed avenue of relief funds was proposed recently by an assembly of cannabis associations and credit unions, which involves asking Congress to issue coronavirus relief block grants to individual states, for them to solely decide how to distribute monies. Further in the Codfish State, veteran access to marijuana is receiving attention. In a new letter led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation pressed the head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to sanction its doctors to give verbal recommendations for medical cannabis amid the pandemic.
The Kansas governor has stated the legalization of medical cannabis is a possibility this session, despite difficulties for lawmakers during the pandemic. Earlier in 2020, the governor noted medical legalization is a priority, and recreational legalization is something she favors. Per a late 2019 poll, 63% of Kansas residents support a broad change to policy. Connecticut’s governor has sponsored a legalization bill in 2020, a first for the state, but the session was interrupted by coronavirus-related protections. Additionally, the Alabama Senate and the Kentucky House of Representatives both approved medical cannabis bills, but a progression for approval is delayed due to COVID-19.
U.S. Virgin Islands governor, Albert Bryan Jr., is assertively for legalization and has recently announced the introduction of a revised reform bill. He considers legalization to be a path to post-coronavirus economic recovery via tax revenue from legal cannabis sales. This viewpoint is shared by New Mexico’s governor, who lately articulated regret lawmakers did not pass a reform bill she supported earlier this year.
Signature gathering for petitions to change laws regarding cannabis legalization is facing challenges across the nation, including in Nebraska for medical cannabis and in Missouri for adult-use legalization. An Arizona campaign, as well as Montana advocates, have requested allowance of digitally signed petitions. In Idaho, activists are suspending their ballot campaign to legalize medical cannabis but keeping their fight motivated through online downloads.
Campaigners for legalization in North Dakota are interrupting their efforts towards inclusion on the November ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as New York’s governor, who noted this type of change in policy may be too difficult for remotely-working lawmakers.
National Cannabis Legislation
In better news, the United States hemp industry will likely receive governmental relief amid COVID-19 damages due to a Senate-passed relief bill. Farmers will now have access to SBA loans; previously they were ineligible as other options exist under the USDA. As of now, the USDA continues to accept proposals for domestic hemp programs, per state and tribal regulations. Florida and Kansas were the latest to have their proposals accepted.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, a pending bill exists to legalize adult-use cannabis. If the Congressional members from each of the 17 states which have legalized or are considering legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis supported the bill, then there will be 173 “yes” votes, which is 45 votes short of the 218 vote majority needed for the bill to pass in the House. Although this bill would then need to pass in the Senate, CEOs in the cannabis industry trust the motion at the state level will be pro-legalization encouragement on both legislative bodies.
Learn More About Cannabis Legislation and the Coronavirus
Stay up to date with regard to changes in cannabis legislation and COVID-19 in the United States, as well as upcoming openings for conference dates and other news of the industry with CannaCon.