By Sam Wood
U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Philadelphia) introduced a bill last week that would establish a federal Small Business Administration grant program to help entrepreneurs launch and sustain commercial cannabis startups. In addition, Evans’ bill, H.R. 3544, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act, effectively decriminalizing the substance. Evans calls it the Homegrown Act of 2019.
“You see the momentum,” the congressman said. “It’s not a question of if cannabis will be legalized. It’s a question of when. There are already 11 states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. We need to resolve the conflict now between the states and federal laws.”
Federal law considers cannabis illegal and places it in the same category as heroin and LSD. Because of the federal prohibition, it is nearly impossible for state-approved cannabis businesses to receive bank loans.
And the bill would likely face overwhelming opposition in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
Multi-state operators, which are the primary growers and sellers of weed in legal states, are raising money by listing on the Canadian Stock Exchanges. Small mom-and-pop businesses don’t have that option. “It’s one of the reasons I set up this initiative,” Evans said.
“My bill would act as a poverty-buster and help homegrown small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy,” Evans said. “We need to make sure that the booming legal cannabis industry does not become consolidated in the hands of a few big companies.”
Evans said his bill is designed to help remove barriers to jobs and entrepreneurship for communities that historically have been hit hardest by marijuana laws.
“One of the things I’m trying to do is make sure that African Americans and Latinos are not left out because the war on drugs has been fought on their backs,” said Evans, who serves as vice chair of the House Small Business Committee. “Loans and grants would be worked out with the SBA. And I want to make sure they’re in the position to make this happen. I feel good about the momentum.”