Marijuana Business Magazine May-June 2020

Marijuana Business Magazine | May-June 2020 16 The COVID-19 response has shown just how critical cannabis is to the overall economy and job markets in a number of these states.” —Michael Bronstein American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp M arijuana reform has never been atop the priority list for most members of Congress, and the coronavirus outbreak isn’t likely to change that. Or is it? The federal illegality of marijuana has impacted those in the state-legal cannabis space lately, most notably prohibiting MJ businesses from accessing federal relief funds offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration or a sweeping bailout package signed by President Donald Trump in late March. But, as with nearly everything coronavirus-related, nothing is certain. Rather, much more could be on the table than is immediately apparent. The virus, which kept most members of Congress from returning to Washington DC from their home districts at the end of March, also has led to a somewhat surprising trend of state governments declaring their marijuana industries to be “essential” for keeping Americans safe and healthy. As of March 30, at least half the states and the District of Columbia had made formal declarations that their marijuana companies are critical parts of their infrastructure allowed—or even required—to remain open for business. Those continued operations also mean legal marijuana is a sector that could provide relief to state govern- ments that may suffer a shortfall in tax revenue from other flailing industries and even serve as an outlet for unem- ployed Americans seeking work. What that will translate to is political clout. “The COVID-19 response has shown just how critical cannabis is to the overall economy and job markets in a number of these states, and it’s very hard for the federal government to ignore that. It’s getting increasingly hard for members of Congress to ignore that,” said Michael Bronstein, co-founder of the American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp. How Political Clout Could Be Used The entire situation has put the industry’s inner workings more in the political spotlight—including its lack of banking services and widespread reliance on cash, which some are concerned could transmit germs. That disparity might offer leverage when pushing for marijuana reform in Congress and mean lawmakers could be more receptive to, for instance, including MJ banking reform or disaster relief funding in what many are already expecting: another federal spending bill to support industry and bolster the U.S. economy. If such a bill were to pass, at least some activists in the Capitol are optimistic that marijuana businesses might benefit from it. The skeleton of a political strategy is definitely in place. The issue moving forward is how to flesh it out. That’s why stakeholders need to be cautious and, instead of screaming bloody murder, focus on persuading lawmakers that helping legal marijuana companies will mean helping Americans. “There’s an opportunity to continue to create jobs” with legalized marijuana, said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National How Coronavirus Could Shape the Future of Marijuana Trends & HotTopics | John Schroyer