US Congress urged to open SBA programs to cannabis firms

Marijuana industry advocates urged the U.S. Congress to extend the federal government’s small business financial assistance programs to marijuana-related companies.

Shanita Penny, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said that while the association has “worked tirelessly to ensure cannabis policy is equitable on every level, our efforts have been crippled by a lack of access to and support from agencies like the SBA (Small Business Administration).”

Penny’s remarks came at what was characterized as the first-ever congressional hearing on the role of small business in the legal cannabis sector. The hearing was held by the U.S. House Committee on Small Business.

Currently, marijuana and ancillary businesses are ineligible for SBA-backed financing programs.

Penny, one of four individuals invited to speak at the hearing, outlined the potential for small- and minority-owned cannabis businesses to contribute to local economies and quality job growth.

But, she said, small businesses in the industry are vulnerable to predatory lending practices and urgently need the support of the SBA to help get on solid financial footing.

The hardships of the low-income and underserved communities specifically should be addressed, Penny said.

Other speakers at the hearing represented the Veterans Cannabis Coalition, The Heritage Foundation as well as First Federal Bank in Lake City, Florida.

Committee chair Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat, said in her concluding remarks that she hopes the government can “find workable solutions” to address the challenges of small business owners in what she characterized as a “complex, emerging industry.”

Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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