Marijuana-related business owners dazed and confused by coronavirus relief rules

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DENVER – Their shop doesn’t sell marijuana. So why aren’t they eligible for help under the coronavirus relief bill? That’s what some Colorado business owners are asking as they struggle to survive amid statewide stay-at-home orders. 

At Smokey’s Pipe and Tobacco in southeast Denver, they’ve laid off three workers. The owner had hoped to apply for assistance, like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the Small Business Administration (SBA). But he found out, because of his shop’s indirect link to the marijuana industry, he may not be eligible.

“It does not seem fair,” Hana Post, the store’s manager, said.

Guidance from the SBA says, since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, not only are cannabis businesses excluded from the government aid, but so are businesses related to marijuana. In other words, head shops, hydroponic system sellers, marijuana-related legal and accounting firms and other businesses may not qualify.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking to know that we’re not as supported as the liquor stores or Hobby Lobby,” Post said.

The store’s owner tells FOX31, he pays Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, local, state and federal sales taxes. So he wonders why his business can’t get help, and why his employees can’t have their paychecks protected too.

“They meant something to this business. They weren’t just another associate,” Post said.

The owner of Smokey’s is trying to navigate his options. But doesn’t appear to have many options when it comes to government aid.

“You never know what to expect with what’s going on, but it’s just better to keep our heads high and stay positive about it,” Post said.

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