Why California Cannabis Dispensaries Get “Essential” Tag But Not Aid

Small business calling foul over perceived double standard.

As quarantine orders started to roll out across the United States, citizens flocked to the stores to stockpile everything from toilet paper to ammunition. If you lived in any of the 10-plus states that have legalized recreational marijuana, you saw other queues forming throughout cities and towns: people panic-buying weed for fear that dispensaries would have to shutter their doors. Thankfully local governments recognized that millions of Americans would be stressed out enough cooped up in their homes for an undetermined period of time and took mercy on the herb-imbibing public, granting dispensaries the “essential business” tag. The feds did not, however, invite them to the aid party.

The CARES Act includes $350 billion for the Small Business Administration to provide forgivable loans to companies with 500 or fewer employees, but because marijuana is still deemed a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the feds, they aren’t eligible for any of that assistance. Further, in addition to dispensaries, operations that grow marijuana, conduct lab tests, or sell related paraphernalia also have been ruled ineligible. And many small business owners are crying foul.

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