When state governments started ordering lockdowns and issuing stay at home orders, the economy took a severe hit. So severe, in fact, that the federal government passed a $2 trillion emergency relief package. Qualified citizens, along with small businesses, would receive cash payments and business loans to help them weather the financial storm.
However, due to ongoing federal prohibition, businesses in the state-legal marijuana sector were barred from accessing these funds. There have been calls from stakeholders, advocates, and lawmakers to rectify the marijuana sector’s omission if the government deploys another relief package.
Massachusetts, it seems, might be ahead of the federal government after lawmakers introduced a bill that would provide relief to marginalized industries like cannabis. On Tuesday, a state legislative committee held a virtual hearing with members and stakeholders to get input on a bill that would establish a state-level Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for companies unable to access federal relief aid.
Discussed by the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses and sponsored by the committee’s chair Sen. Diana DiZoglio, the proposal would provide a much-needed injection of cash into a legal industry that has been unfairly left out by the federal government.
According to Beth Waterfall, executive director of cannabis events company ELEVATE Northeast, the creation of a Massachusetts PPP loans program for cannabis businesses would be a momentous step in the right direction to remedy the inequality that legal, tax-paying cannabis-related businesses are facing during the COVID-19 crisis.
Angela Brown, CEO of Massachusetts-based cannabis firm T. Bear Inc. says she had to shut down a day before launching. “We were forced to furlough our entire team, lock the building up, and walk away. And while I wait, I still pay my rent, my lenders, my utilities, and my health insurance for furloughed employees,” she says.
“All small business owners are dealing with these issues. The bills and debt continue to mount as the shutdown prolongs. But the difference is that the cannabis industry doesn’t even have access to disaster relief.” This is the inequality the new bill seeks to remedy. And with medical marijuana deemed essential in Massachusetts, these businesses will definitely need such protections to help them better serve their customers safely.
“Our small businesses are in crisis, as you well know. They not only 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,” says bill sponsor DiZoglio.
“It is up to the Commonwealth to close the gaps for all our small businesses and provide equitable relief in the absence of that relief from the federal government.”
It is widely believed that cannabis industry companies like Champignon Brands Inc. (CSE: SHRM) (OTCQB: SHRMF) (FWB: 496) are hoping that all states with marijuana programs come up with ways to support the industry during this pandemic.
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