“We request that you advocate for cannabis businesses licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be able to apply for and receive the same or analogous assistance as other state-recognized businesses that have been or expect to be negatively impacted by the declared COVID-19 federal emergency,” members of the commission wrote in the letter, which was sent to the office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday.
Marijuana shops in Massachusetts have suffered major financial losses over the last few weeks. Gov. Charlie Baker has issued an order banning all non-essential businesses from operating through May 4. While medical marijuana is considered essential, recreational pot stores had to close.
“Many Massachusetts cannabis businesses are small businesses. Like small businesses across many sectors, they now face an uncertain future,” the letter reads. “What differentiates state-legal cannabis businesses, however, are restrictions on both basic business banking and, now, disaster relief options, not faced by others. For this reason, we request your consideration and advocacy for assistance that is inclusive of these Massachusetts businesses in any forthcoming COVID-19 stimulus legislation.”
The commissioners, Chairman Steven Hoffman, Kay Doyle, Jennifer Flanagan, Britte McBride and Shaleen Title, wrote that 300 licensed marijuana businesses, which employ more than 3,2000 people, are not able to receive assistance through the SBA.
“With access to capital through traditional means already limited for state-legal cannabis businesses by federal banking restrictions, the path ahead for many of these Massachusetts businesses looks even less clear than for other businesses. For any other business, such limited access to capital would work in favor of the business when it came to eligibility for federal SBA assistance,” the commissioners wrote.
The Small Business Administration emergency loan program ran out of money Thursday morning, leading Baker to say it would be up to Congress to extend benefits to help small business owners in Massachusetts. As of Tuesday, the SBA had approved 27,315 loans from Massachusetts applicants, distributing more than $7 billion, spokesman Norman Eng said.
Cannabis commissioners noted in their letter that licensed marijuana businesses pay local, state and federal taxes, adding that in 2019, adult-use marijuana businesses generated more than $80 million in tax revenue.