A new bill in Congress would allow cannabis businesses to access federal disaster relief programs, according to a press release from the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), one of the bill’s primary sponsors.
Merkley, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act Sept. 24 to bar federal agencies from denying disaster relief to state-legal cannabis businesses solely because of their cannabis related activities.
The move for relief comes as wildfires continue to burn out west, threatening state-legal cannabis businesses that have historically been excluded from federal disaster relief programs due to cannabis’s Schedule I status.
“Cannabis businesses in Oregon hurt by the blazing wildfires or any other disaster shouldn’t be shut out from federal relief simply because the federal government is stuck in yesteryear,” Wyden said in a public statement. “These legal small businesses employ thousands of workers and support our struggling economy. If they need federal support, they should get it. Full stop.”
“Whether you’re for or against state-legal cannabis, we can all agree that families in all of our communities are struggling to keep the lights on and stay afloat during this turbulent time—and that they need and deserve support,” said Merkley, also in a public statement. “That includes thousands of small business owners, workers and their families who rely on state-legal cannabis businesses for their livelihoods. We have to make sure those families won’t be shut out from critical assistance that can make a real difference.”
The Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act would allow cannabis businesses to qualify for relief in relation to any federal disaster declaration issued beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
“Many of Oregon's state-legal cannabis businesses have faced catastrophic disruptions because of wildfires,” Blumenauer said in a public statement. “There’s no reason why these legitimate businesses shouldn't have access to the federal support meant to help businesses survive unprecedented disasters. Our legislation will help ensure these businesses and their workers are not left behind.”
“It’s ridiculous that legal businesses here in Oregon are being denied critical wildfire aid because of outdated policies handed down from Washington, D.C.” added DeFazio, also in a public statement. “Cannabis businesses employ thousands across Oregon and are a vital economic engine for our state. This important legislation will ensure that these businesses are eligible for the same aid as every other business impacted by the 2020 wildfires."