A bill introduced in Congress last week aims to help small business owners navigate the ins and outs of cannabis licensing.
The legislation, the Homegrown Act of 2019, would set up a so-called Small Business Association grant program to “provide state and local governments with funding to help small businesses navigate cannabis licensing and employment with a focus on communities most impacted by the War on Drugs,” according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dwight Evans, a Pennsylvania Democrat.
“My bill would act as a poverty-buster and help homegrown small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy. We need to make sure that the booming legal cannabis industry does not become consolidated in the hands of a few big companies,” the congressman said in a press release.
“My bill would help small businesses to participate in this industry and knock down barriers to jobs and entrepreneurship for people most adversely impacted by the war on cannabis, which has been especially harsh for people of color,” added Evans, who is Black.
The bill, introduced just ahead of Congress’ Fourth of July recess last Thursday, has now been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as to the Committees on the Judiciary, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Small Business—the latter of which Evans serves as vice chairman.
It was one of several bills introduced in the House last week designed to help small business owners in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Another, introduced by Evans, New York Democrat Nydia Velázquez and Maine Democrat Jared Golden, would extend a number of benefits to those operating in the cannabis business, including the ability to receive loans backed by the Small Business Administration.
“As our society continues to move the needle on this issue, we must recognize that legal cannabis businesses are often small businesses that fuel local economies and create new jobs,” Velázquez said of the bill. “That is why I am pleased to introduce legislation to extend affordable lending options to small businesses that operate in the cannabis space, while simultaneously recognizing the structural disadvantages facing entrepreneurs from communities of color.”
For Evans, who represents a district that includes several parts of Philadelphia, the fight to end the War on Drugs is nothing new. Last year, he signed on to a bill that would have removed both cannabis and hemp from the federal drug scheduling, saying at the time that he is “one thousand percent on board” with marijuana legalization.
The bill, which ultimately languished in committee, would have eliminated “ criminal penalties for an individual who imports, exports, manufactures, distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute marijuana,” though it would have also made it “a crime to knowingly ship or transport marijuana into a state where its receipt, possession, or sale is prohibited.”