Congress has passed the CARES Act in order to assist Americans during the COVD19 pandemic. Despite paying onerous taxes, most cannabis companies are ineligible to take part in the rescue plan. Hemp farmers look like they will be able to take advantage of some assistance in the rescue package.
Harris Bricken law office noted on their website that the bill contains a $20 million grant to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Relief Fund. The site also pointed out that on March 11, President Trump instructed the SBA “to exercise available authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus.” Unfortunately for marijuana businesses, SBA was quick to point out that:
“Because federal law prohibits the sale and distribution of cannabis, the SBA does not provide financial assistance to businesses that are illegal under federal law. Businesses that aren’t eligible include marijuana growers and dispensers, businesses that sell cannabis products, etc., even if the business is legal under local or state law.”
Harris Bricken also suggested that because the CARES Act delegates lending authority to banks and credit unions, that potentially eligible hemp businesses should reach out to their banks and credit unions directly.
Hemp, Inc. CEO Bruce Perlowin said, “We appreciate that the CARES Act includes language that designates relief for small businesses and relief for farmers–hemp farmers should absolutely be included in this as federal law now treats hemp as an agricultural commodity and not a controlled substance. While marijuana businesses and cultivators would not receive relief, hemp farmers should receive and benefit from direly needed stimulus funds. The hemp industry needs support now so that it can lead in uplifting and revamping the economy when the dust settles.”
Cannabis Crocodile Tears
Many in the cannabis community grumble about paying taxes but then get excluded from a rescue package. It’s a valid complaint, except that dispensaries have been allowed to stay open for the most part and many states have eased restrictions regarding deliveries and curbside service. Several have also reported very strong sales during the crisis and that makes it hard to believe that the companies need a rescue plan.
Granted physical distancing presents more challenges to the system, but then the cannabis industry is used to adapting to challenges. There are some that believe there are poorly run cannabis companies who are now hiding behind COVID excuses to explain poor results.
Hemp farmers, however, were struggling prior to the pandemic as many sunk large amounts of money into farms only to see prices drop and demand fall. Competition increased dramatically causing large players like GenCanna to declare bankruptcy. The CARES Act could be just the thing to hit the reset button.
EcoGen Laboratories Head of Sales Doug Watson said, “During this trying time, we are excited to see that the CARES Act includes language that designates relief for farmers and small businesses. Farming inherently comes with certain risks and any assistance from the government will help ease some of the fear in continuing to plant during this pandemic. In this same spirit, EcoGen is also working on a program where the company will buy back hemp from farmers in order to stand behind our farming customers. We are very hopeful that this stimulus will help the hemp industry in this important planting season for 2020.”