Colorado Governor Asks Congress to Give Relief Money to Cannabis Businesses

"Unfortunately, a large number of small businesses in Colorado are not eligible for these loans due to their involvement in the state-legal cannabis industry"

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) asked the House Small Business Committee last week to make federal loans available to cannabis businesses that have been denied help by the Small Business Administration.

In a letter to Representative Jason Crow, a fellow Colorado Democrat who sits on the committee, the governor urged the legislator to include relief for cannabis businesses, or at least to “work with your colleagues to ensure that Indirect Marijuana Businesses will be eligible for the loans.” 

“Unfortunately, a large number of small businesses in Colorado are not eligible for these loans due to their involvement in the state-legal cannabis industry,” Polis wrote. Rules set by the Small Business Administration currently block dispensaries and growers from receiving loans, as well as any business that even indirectly serves the cannabis industry

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“As you can imagine, there are hundreds of Colorado companies that fall into the latter category,” the governor wrote, “from HVAC companies and lighting equipment suppliers to law firms and accounting firms.” 

Even if these businesses became eligible for loans, they still face a Small Business Administration that is now out of money, with an application process that one small lender called “a stampede through the eye of a needle,” according to NBC news. 

Congress is meeting this week to craft a new package of funding for small business that is expected to contain nearly $500 billion in new money for the small-business loan program. However, neither Democrats or Republicans have shown that cannabis is a priority during intense negotiations over what to include in the bill.

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Rep. Crow himself failed to mention Governor Polis’ request in a letter he wrote last Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the leadership of the Small Business Committee.

Although pleading for more money for the Small Business Administration, he made no specific requests related to the cannabis industry or so-called Indirect Marijuana Businesses — perhaps because he was concentrated on putting out other fires in the Colorado economy. 

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“I have heard from small businesses across my district that, since the March 18 declaration of an economic injury disaster in Colorado, many of them have been unable to access the EIDL loan program, have received no response from the SBA, or have been given conflicting information about the requirements for receiving a 10,000 EIDL grant,” Crow wrote. 

Even Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado has acknowledged the value of the cannabis industry to Colorado’s business community.

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The senator, despite his opposition to federal legalization, gave a speech on the senate floor in late March where he included the marijuana industry in a list of “businesses across the State of Colorado which are stepping up in ways that make all of us proud.” 

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Outside of a clause in this week’s relief legislation, it is unclear how much leverage Crow or other legislators have at the moment, with the House not scheduled to meet again until May. The Small Business Committee that Crow sits on has no activity scheduled for the foreseeable future.

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Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, is also pushing to free up SBA loans by specifically including the cannabis industry in the upcoming stimulus packages.

Last week the congressman told NJ.com that he plans “to keep pushing to ensure the cannabis industry has the ability to be eligible for SBA relief funds during this COVID-19 crisis. I have spoken to House leadership about this matter and I’m hopeful in one of the next two packages we can get this done.”

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