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  • by NORML April 22, 2020

    Ten members of the Senate, led by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and 34 members of the House, led by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Tom McClintock (R-CA), have recently issued letters requesting Small Business Administration funding programs be expanded so that they may be accessed by state-licensed cannabis businesses. 

    “With the majority of regulated states designating medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the health and welfare of the community during this time of crisis, it is critical that Congress authorizes the Small Business Association to similarly recognize their importance and to allow the agency to provide these small businesses with economic assistance to ensure public health, patient access, and continuity of care,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Many of these establishments are small-to-medium size operators, with their employees keeping their doors open without access to the support systems in place for other businesses, thus depriving them of potentially lifesaving protections.”

    Members of the Senate wrote:

    “Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their community and workforce. Therefore, we ask Senate Leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

    You can find the full Senate letter here

    Members of the House wrote:

    “The COVID-19 outbreak is no time to permit federal policy to stand in the way of the reality that millions of Americans in states across the country face daily—that state-legal cannabis businesses are sources of economic growth and financial stability for thousands of workers and families, and need our support. Given the nature of the epidemic, we must ensure that everyone has the capacity to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures. Without doing that, we risk undercutting the public health efforts nationwide.”

    You can find the full House letter here

    The state-licensed cannabis industry employs more than 240,000 American workers, over four times the number of American workers as does the coal industry. The majority of these businesses are small-to-medium in size.

    In the majority of jurisdictions that regulate cannabis marketplaces, lawmakers in recent weeks have designated these operations to be ‘essential’ to the health and well-being of the patient community. In others, regulators have either relaxed protocols or moved forward with new, emergency rules to facilitate expanded access – such as permitting patients to seek telemedicine appointments and allowing dispensaries to permit curbside pick-up and home delivery.

    A representative from the Small Business Administration previously acknowledged, “With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services.”

    NORML has consistently been working with its Congressional allies to move forward several pieces of legislation, such as HR 3540: The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act, and HR 3884/S 2227: The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act – which “prohibit the Small Business Administration from declining to provide certain small business loans to an eligible entity solely because it is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

    You can send a message to your lawmakers in support of this effort by clicking here. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 2, 2020

    Eleven US Senators — Michael Bennett (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) — have sent a letter to leadership urging lawmakers to permit licensed cannabis operators to qualify for loans and other forms economic assistance available from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

    The Senators write:

    Over the last decade, there has been a clear shift in public opinion toward supporting the legalization of cannabis in the United States. Some states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, have legalized both the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis. States collected an estimated $1.3 billion in tax revenue from legal cannabis sales in 2018. However, SBA’s current policy excludes small businesses with “direct” or “indirect” products or services that aid the use, growth, enhancement, or other development of cannabis from SBA-backed financing. Consequently, small businesses in states with some form of legal cannabis must choose between remaining eligible for SBA loan programs, or doing business with a rapidly-growing and legal industry.

    Just two weeks ago, a representative from the Administration acknowledged, “With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services.”

    The Senators close their letter stating, “We strongly support ensuring that SBA loan programs are made available to all cannabis small businesses.”

    While the letter specifically calls for these changes to be made as part of the traditional appropriations process, which will not be concluded until September 2020 at earliest, one additional pathway would be to include legislative language in the next anticipated bill to address the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time of crisis and unprecedented federal support for the economy, with hundreds of billions of dollars being issued through the SBA to support small businesses, time is of the essence. To that end, NORML has called for SBA access to be included in our recently issued policy memo.

    Supporters of these changes can contact their federal lawmakers with NORML’s Action Center here. 

    Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NORML has been working with its Congressional allies to move forward several pieces of legislation, such as HR 3540: The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act, and HR 3884/S 2227: The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act – which would both “prohibit the Small Business Administration from declining to provide certain small business loans to an eligible entity solely because it is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

    The state-licensed cannabis industry employs more than 240,000 American workers, over four times the number of American workers as does the coal industry. The majority of these businesses are small-to-medium in size.

    Additional information about HR 3540: The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act is available online here.

  • by NORML February 19, 2020

    Jobs in the state-licensed cannabis industry rose 15 percent during the past 12 months, and the industry now employs over 243,000 full-time workers, according to data compiled by Leafly.com.

    Commenting on the jobs data, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “The legal cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in America in spite of the challenges it faces due to marijuana’s federal criminal classification. These new numbers only further underscore the need to end prohibition and allow the state programs to operate as intended.”


    According to its 2020 report, the regulated cannabis industry added 32,700 new jobs over the past year. States adding the greater number of new cannabis-related jobs were Massachusetts (10,266 jobs) and Oklahoma (7,300 jobs). Overall, the total number of full-time jobs in the licensed cannabis industry has doubled since 2017.

    “The refusal [of the federal government] to acknowledge the existence of legal cannabis jobs is a powerful act of shaming and stigmatization,” the report concludes. “There are now nearly a quarter of a million Americans whose professional lives are categorized as [either] illegal or nonexistent by the government of the United States. … If cannabis industry jobs were tallied like other jobs, … legal cannabis would be acknowledged as the fastest growing industry in America.”

    Full text of the study, “Leafly Jobs Report 2020,” appears online here. Additional information is available in the NORML fact-sheet, ‘Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, Economy.’

  • by NORML September 20, 2019

    Marijuana and Money

    Majority Leader Hoyer on Friday announced that members of the House are anticipated to hold a floor vote next week on The SAFE Banking Act (HR1595), which explicitly permits banks and other financial institutions to work directly with state-legal marijuana businesses.

    “The upcoming banking vote is an important first step by Congress, but in no way should it be the last,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Much more action will still need to be taken by lawmakers, in particular efforts to move forward and pass comprehensive reform legislation like The MORE Act — which is sponsored by the Chair of the House Judiciary — in order to ultimately comport federal law with the new political and cultural realities surrounding marijuana.”

    Today, almost no state-licensed cannabis businesses can legally obtain a bank account, process credit cards, or take standard business deductions on their federal taxes. This is because federal law continues to inappropriately define all marijuana-related endeavors as criminal enterprises, including those commercial activities that are licensed and legally regulated under state laws.

  • by NORML June 28, 2019

    House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez along with Representatives Jared Golden and Dwight Evans introduced a package of legislation, (H.R. 3540, H.R. 3543, and H.R. 3544, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to extend several Small Business Administration (SBA) initiatives to small businesses operating in the cannabis sector.

    “Chairwoman Velázquez is now the first Committee Chair ever to introduce legislation that would end the federal marijuana prohibition,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “As this nascent industry begins to grow, federal policy should strive to reduce roadblocks for those qualified entrepreneurs who have historically been the targets under the criminalization of cannabis. Enterprising individuals who would benefit most from the critical resources that the Small Business Administration provides must not be discriminated against as a matter of principled fairness and opportunity.”

    At the time of introduction, Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez said, “As our society continues to move the needle on this issue, we must recognize that legal cannabis businesses are often small businesses that fuel local economies and create new jobs. That is why I am pleased to introduce legislation to extend affordable lending options to small businesses that operate in the cannabis space, while simultaneously recognizing the structural disadvantages facing entrepreneurs from communities of color.”

    This legislative package is introduced on the heels of a Committee on Small Business hearing which discussed the positive impact that the SBA could have if it were able to engage with small businesses in the rapidly growing, state-legal cannabis marketplaces. 

    Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. An additional thirteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes. 

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

    Specifically, a 2019 report estimates that over 211,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

    You can read more in the release issued by the Committee on Small Business here

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