A Denver-based business is being shut out of a federally funded coronavirus program that distributes masks and hand sanitizer simply because it sells CBD products.
The owner of the headshop Meadowlark 64 said he applied for the city’s personal protective equipment (PPE) program to obtain free resources, also including disinfectant, face shields and thermometers. But he was denied, with Denver officials citing federal policy as the reason he was rejected.
“We can’t use federal dollars to support certain industries, sadly,” Susan Liehe, marketing director of Denver’s Office of Economic Development and Opportunity, told KDVR in an interview published this week.
“For folks who are in the cannabis industry, the fact that they are caught sideways between local and federal governments is not exactly news, right?,” she said. “This is by no means the first time they’ve heard this and regrettably probably not the last.”
Meadowlark 64 owner Damon Miller said he’s lost about 20 percent in business amid the COVID-19 outbreak. He’d hoped to get the moderate relief, but because his shop dispenses CBD products, officials said he’s ineligible—regardless of the fact that marijuana is legal in Colorado and hemp-derived CBD is federally legal.
“A business such as myself that does not dispense THC, but we do happen to dispense CBD—we were denied our PPE package just because of those parameters, apparently,” he said. “A customer is a customer. A life is a life. And in this day and age, anything that we can do to help those folks out while they’re navigating this kind of uncertain time, that’s what we were expecting to get from the city of Denver.”
Miller isn’t the only cannabis-adjacent business owner to feel the burn of federal cannabis prohibition during this health crisis.
The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) has made clear that cannabis companies are ineligible for its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans—and its policy also bars those that work with marijuana businesses indirectly from getting the aid.
The American Bar Association sent a letter to the heads of the Treasury Department and SBA in June, urging them to end a current policy preventing law firms that service state-legal marijuana businesses from receiving those coronavirus dollars.
Another state-level consequence of federal prohibition is occurring in Maine, where the state’s education department announced in May that it is no longer eligible for certain federal funds to support mental health programs in schools because the state allows students to access medical marijuana.
Photo by Kimzy Nanney.