SBA nominee indicates openness to examining marijuana restrictions

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President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the U.S. Small Business Administration said during a Senate confirmation hearing that she will examine SBA rules regarding state-legal marijuana businesses and overall is committed to serving small businesses “in need.”

Isabel Guzman stopped short of making any commitments to changing rules, but industry experts are hopeful of cannabis-related reform in the SBA under the new Democratic-controlled administration.

Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Nevada Democrat, brought up the issue Wednesday during a Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship meeting. Rosen’s office later tweeted the exchange.

“Will you work with our office to commit to consider providing legal operating cannabis small businesses equal access to SBA resources – loans, counseling, mentoring and training?” Rosen asked.

Guzman responded: “I commit to further understanding those rules and regulations and seeing how we can partner with your office to serve all the small businesses who are in need.”

Marijuana industry advocates have been urging SBA reform for years.

Congressional legislation has previously been introduced to provide equal access to SBA loans and loan guarantees for state-legal marijuana businesses.

The issue came up again last year in conjunction with a coronavirus-relief package – and the SBA reiterated that marijuana businesses and most ancillary businesses would be barred from receiving loans or other aid.

In a recent blog, Michelle Rutter Friberg, the National Cannabis Industry Association’s deputy director of government relations, expressed hope that could change under the Biden administration.

Friberg noted that Guzman, in her role as director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, must be aware of marijuana-related financial hurdles.

“While her position on marijuana is unknown, I’m incredibly hopeful for reform under Guzman – her familiarity with small businesses in California means she is surely well informed on the struggles the cannabis industry faces,” Friberg wrote.