Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer, DeFazio Introduce Legislation to Ensure Equal Access to Disaster Relief for Cannabis Businesses

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., today introduced legislation that would ensure state-legal cannabis businesses can qualify for disaster recovery programs like any other business.

As wildfires continue to rage across the West, law-abiding, state-legal cannabis businesses in Oregon and elsewhere are shut out from disaster recovery programs simply because of the federal government’s archaic categorization of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. The Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act would prevent any federal agency from denying disaster relief to state-legal cannabis businesses solely because of cannabis-related activities. 

“Cannabis businesses in Oregon hurt by the blazing wildfires or any other disaster shouldn’t be shut out from federal relief simply because the federal government is stuck in yesteryear,” Wyden said. “These legal small businesses employ thousands of workers and support our struggling economy. If they need federal support, they should get it. Full stop.”

“Whether you’re for or against state-legal cannabis, we can all agree that families in all of our communities are struggling to keep the lights on and stay afloat during this turbulent time—and that they need and deserve support,” said Merkley. “That includes thousands of small business owners, workers and their families who rely on state-legal cannabis businesses for their livelihoods. We have to make sure those families won’t be shut out from critical assistance that can make a real difference.”

“Many of Oregon’s state-legal cannabis businesses have faced catastrophic disruptions because of wildfires. There’s no reason why these legitimate businesses shouldn’t have access to the federal support meant to help businesses survive unprecedented disasters,” said Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “Our legislation will help ensure these businesses and their workers are not left behind.”

“It’s ridiculous that legal businesses here in Oregon are being denied critical wildfire aid because of outdated policies handed down from Washington, D.C.” said DeFazio. “Cannabis businesses employ thousands across Oregon and are a vital economic engine for our state. This important legislation will ensure that these businesses are eligible for the same aid as every other business impacted by the 2020 wildfires.”

The Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act would allow cannabis businesses to be eligible for relief pursuant to any federal disaster declaration issued beginning January 1, 2020. The legislation would require the head of each individual agency to allow state-legal cannabis businesses to apply for assistance retroactively. 

Bill text for the Small Business Disaster Relief Equity Act can be found here.

A web version of this release is here.