MJBizMag September 2022 - 46

STRENGTH AT ANY SIZE
SAME PLANT, DIFFERENT ARSENAL
Public assistance for high-THC cannabis startups elusive,
even as hemp assistance comes into its own
By Kristen Nichols
H
emp and marijuana are the
same species of cannabis. But in
the United States, the two plants
remain far apart in terms of how much
government help entrepreneurs can
get when starting a business with them.
High-THC companies remain
off-limits from receiving any kind of
federal assistance from the U.S. Small
Business Administration (SBA) or other
national agencies devoted to promoting
economic development.
In response, states with regulated
marijuana markets are taking up
small-business lending and assistance
that, for other industries, would be
shouldered by the federal government.
" There is no federal assistance
available to THC-touching companies, "
said Tristan Watkins, program manager
for the Colorado Cannabis Business
Office, a $4 million agency created in
2021 to address shortfalls in federal
support for cannabis businesses.
46 September 2022 | MJBizMagazine
PROHIBITION TO BLAME
The COVID-19 pandemic changed a
lot for businesses and governments
worldwide, but it didn't alter the
fact that cannabis entrepreneurs in
the United States can't access legal
protections enjoyed by other industries.
As businesses shuttered and millions of
workers were laid off, high-THC cannabis
entrepreneurs were explicitly excluded
from federal relief in the form of grants
and loans to keep folks employed.
In fact, the SBA, which doled out
more than $521 billion to more than
4.8 million different small businesses
during the first six months of 2020,
went out of its way to remind companies
that they couldn't get help if they worked
with marijuana.
Several members of Congress, led by
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada, tried
this spring to pressure the SBA to open
lending to high-THC cannabis businesses.
So far, the agency hasn't acted.
Low-THC hemp operators, on the
other hand, are eligible to seek:
* Low-interest SBA loans, known as
7(a) loans.
* Free SBA business-coaching
sessions and technical consulting.
* Federal disaster assistance.
* New and minority farmer
assistance from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
* Grants to promote climate-smart
manufacturing and cultivation.
* Subsidized crop insurance.
None of those are easily accessible
to companies working with high-THC
cannabis.
Shane Pennington, a Denver-based
attorney with the Vicente Sederberg
law firm, said he's seen clients who
don't directly touch the plant be
approved for federal loans or loan
forgiveness-only to watch federal
lenders change course because the
companies work with or near cannabis.

MJBizMag September 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of MJBizMag September 2022

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