Eleven prominent US senators have implored lawmakers to allow licensed cannabis companies to benefit from loans and economic assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marijuana businesses are not currently eligible for Small Business Association loan programs and economic assistance packages. Marijuana remains illegal at a federal level, so they do not qualify.

Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris are part of the coalition fighting for marijuana businesses to gain access to SBA-funded services. Michael Bennet, Cory Brooker, Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillibrand, Edward Market, Robert Menendez, Jeffrey Merkley, Jacky Rosen and Ron Wyden also signed the letter to the leadership.

“We strongly support ensuring that SBA loan programs are made available to all cannabis small businesses,” they wrote in a letter to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.

Sanders, Harris and co pointed out that states collected an estimated $1.3 billion in tax revenue from legal cannabis sales in 2018. They said that there has been “a clear shift in public opinion” toward supporting the legalization of all forms of cannabis in the US, and argued that these licensed companies should be able to benefit from economic assistance during this crisis.

Eleven states have legalized adult-use cannabis and 33 permit medical marijuana. The legal cannabis industry employs more than 240,000 Americans, four times as many as the coal industry. The majority of these companies are small and medium sized enterprises, and they are threatened by the coronavirus outbreak.

Just today, Green Growth Brands (CSE: GGB) announced it was putting its CBD business into receivership “in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic”.

Campaign group NORML has also been lobbying lawmakers and regulators to help the cannabis sector during the COVID-19 crisis. It has urged lawmakers to enact legislation such as The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act, HR 35405, to leave small marijuana business owners better placed to weather the crisis and continue to employ their workers and serve their consumers.

It also asked lawmakers to allow licensed businesses to access banking services. The SAFE Banking Act has already gained House approval in a bipartisan 321-103 vote, and NORML urged lawmakers to fast track it through the Senate and enact the legislation.

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