Advocates Push for Federal Aid To Cannabis Dispensaries As Pandemic Drags On

While cannabis consumers can continue to go through an online marketplace for marijuana products, there’s also a way they can help traditional retail shops: order curbside pickup or, if available, delivery.

That’s because local dispensaries face a tough financial road, even as some states have made marijuana dispensaries an essential business. Without access to federal aid for cannabis dispensaries, cannabis shops face the prospect of cutting services or furloughing workers.

Brandon Pollock, co-owner of the Theory Wellness dispensary in Massachusetts, told Newsweek, “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.”

How Can Dispensaries Be Essential And Not Eligible for Relief Funds?

About 20 states have made dispensaries an essential business during the COVID-19 outbreak, allowing them to keep their doors open. Consumers drove high cannabis sales as stay-at-home orders began rolling out across the country. Yet federal aid for cannabis dispensaries remains a goal for the industry, not a reality.

That’s because even as 11 states legalized marijuana for recreational use and 33 states legalized marijuana for medical use, the federal government continues to list marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug on par with cocaine and heroin.

That’s kept cannabis companies from seeking loans from the small business loan fund set up by the federal government to extend help to companies struggling to get through the coronavirus epidemic.

Essentially, they have been left behind to figure things out on their own.

In Washington, Some Lawmakers Are Seeking Relief For Cannabis Industry

In Washington, D.C., lobbyists and lawmakers have increased efforts to allow cannabis businesses access to federal funds. For example, 10 senators have written Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about including federal aid to cannabis dispensaries in any future relief bills.

In the House, which is controlled by Democrats, 24 congressional members have also asked for cannabis industry inclusion in future relief efforts. And Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado have led on a bill, co-sponsored by 16 others, that would allow cannabis companies to see loans from the current relief program as well as the regular Small Business Administration loan program.

However, that is unlikely to help anytime soon, as McConnell is already “pumping the breaks” on another round of relief efforts for businesses, according to Newsweek. However, advocates remain hopeful as congressional members, who returned from recess May 4, undoubtedly have heard from constituents who need access to cannabis for medical conditions and don’t want to see local dispensaries fail.

In a related development, Sen. Cory Booker, a former candidate for the Democratic nomination, is seeking to again make marijuana legal at the federal level. “Enough is enough,” Booker said in a video posted to his Facebook page. “We need to end this federal prohibition.”

He went on to call current drug laws “archaic and cruel.”

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