When states began issuing stay-at-home orders, the communities that allow the sale of medical marijuana considered them essential and allowed them to remain open along with supermarkets and drug stores.
Marijuana sales are still illegal under federal law, however, so businesses operating under state statutes are barred from receiving small business aid included in the $2 trillion federal stimulus package called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, ABC News reported.
The CARES Act includes $350 billion for the Small Business Administration to provide forgivable loans to companies with 500 or fewer employees, and the Trump administration is now asking Congress for an additional $250 billion.
Dispensary owners have reacted with frustration that their businesses are considered essential by one level of government but disqualified from aid by another.
“How can cannabis be deemed essential right now, during this crisis, and yet not be offered the same opportunities as other businesses with stimulus packages or SBA loans?” asks Yvonne DeLaRosa Green, who co-owns 99 High Tide Collective, the only cannabis dispensary in Malibu, Calif. She told ABC News that she doubled staffing to meet the current demand for delivery, pickup and online orders.
Elsewhere, at LivWell Enlightened Health, which owns 18 dispensaries in Colorado and Oregon, 18 company officials agreed to suspend their compensation for three months to avoid making cuts elsewhere, including personnel, The Denver Post reported. “This and other cost-cutting measures put us in a good position to weather the storm,” says executive director Dean Heizer. “So long as the storm lasts 90 days.”
In addition to dispensaries, operations that grow marijuana, conduct lab tests or sell related paraphernalia also have been ruled ineligible. Federal law also prohibits cannabis companies from deducting businesses expenses from taxable income.