4 Oregon Dems introduce bill to include cannabis in disaster relief

Oregon politicians are moving to make state-legal cannabis businesses eligible for federal disaster relief.

At least seven licensed adult-use cannabis businesses in the state were destroyed in this month’s wildfires. Others were damaged and are facing continuing disruption.

The businesses are not eligible for federal assistance because THC cannabis (generally referred to as “marihuana” in U.S. law) is illegal at the federal level.

A bill introduced in Congress on Thursday by four Oregon Democrats – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio – would ban that discrimination.

“A state-legal cannabis business shall not be denied disaster assistance administered by a Federal agency solely because the business is involved in the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or delivery of cannabis,” the bill reads.

Programs related to federally declared disasters and the Coronavirus pandemic are explicitly included. The bill would allow for retroactive application for assistance, as well, “to the greatest extent applicable.”

The Small Business Administration last week said businesses in much of Oregon could apply for disaster assistance loans. But the agency told the news website Marijuana Moment that THC cannabis businesses were not eligible.

The SBA also noted that its program didn’t apply to agricultural businesses. However, it appears that hemp growers could already be eligible for assistance through U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.