State-legal hemp businesses are eligible for aid under the $2.2 million coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump last week; however, medical and recreational cannabis firms will not have access to the relief package due to federal cannabis prohibition.
“Under the CARES Act, small businesses can receive loans to cover payroll expenses, health care benefits, employee salaries, rent, utilities and interest on mortgage debt,” according to Vince Sliwoski of the law firm Harris Bricken. “To qualify for these ‘Paycheck Protection Program’ loans, businesses must employ 500 employees or less, including all full-time and part-time employees. Nearly all U.S. hemp businesses fall into this category.”
EcoGen Laboratories Head of Sales Doug Watson explained that the company is working on its own program to help its partners weather the coronavirus storm. The company’s planned program would buy back hemp from farmers. He said he is “hopeful” the stimulus package will help the hemp industry.
“During these stressful times, we are excited to see that the CARES Act includes language that designates relief for farmers and small businesses. Farming comes with certain risks and any assistance from the government will help ease some of the fear in continuing to plant during this pandemic.” – Watson, in a statement
Medical Marijuana Inc. CEO Dr. Stuart Titus said it “remains to be seen” whether CBD companies will have access to funds in the relief package.
Different state hemp programs have different rules regarding CBD and federal rules are muddy, to say the least. The Food and Drug Administration is still devising regulations for CBD and, according to a March 5 statement, the agency is still in the research phase of that process.
In all, 46 states have legalized hemp cultivation and sales and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved 12 state programs submitted after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Another 17 states will continue operating under their 2014 pilot programs, while eight others are pending review by the USDA.
In order to be eligible under the CARES Act, hemp businesses must be in compliance with their codified state and federal rules.