As the West Coast braces for its annual summer heat wave, East Coast states are battling to weather the torrential rains. The state capital, Monteplier, Vermont, experienced devastating flooding that forced many businesses to close for cleaning and repairs. For affected cannabis businesses, this means they cannot apply for federal aid.
according to VT Digger.comLauren Andrews, owner of Capital Cannabis on Main Street, spent days last week cleaning out her pharmacy, which it plans to reopen on July 17. However, when he returned to work, he found that it was leaking water and soaking through the walls and floor. “We would have to tear down the place from the ground up and start from scratch.” Mr Andrews told the press.
Also on July 17, cannabis business owners were informed that they are not eligible for federal disaster assistance. Instead, those funds are going to other companies affected by last week’s historic floods.
“We are a federal agency, so we must follow federal law.” Small Business Administration spokesman Karl Donbeck said:. “Cannabis is not federally legal, so we cannot finance marijuana dispensaries.”
VT Digger.com Similarly, the cannabis business FEMA Small Business Program Aid is disqualified from aid. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare a disaster, but affected hemp farmers have not yet been allowed to receive federal crop insurance, according to the executive director of the USDA’s Office of Agricultural Services.
However, workers in the cannabis industry who have lost their jobs due to the floods can still apply for unemployment insurance. Services provided by the countryis not a federal program.
While the floods are not in danger of shutting down cannabis businesses statewide, cannabis businesses still need help, according to Cannabis Control Commission Chairman James Pepper. “All these businesses are already at risk because of closed-loop systems,” Pepper said. “There is no way out. There are no pressure relief valves in the cannabis industry.
“It’s a very interdependent relationship,” said Andrews. “When one of us falls, we all get hurt.”
Unlike other produce grown in Vermont, cannabis growers are still learning how to assess damage after destruction. “We don’t think of cannabis as an agricultural product, but it is a seed, a crop that grows in the ground,” Pepper added. “Therefore, some of the Agriculture Agency’s best practices can be used to address the cannabis problem.”
Cannabis farms must test for wastewater contamination and monitor crops for water-related problems such as bud rot.
Jeffrey Pizztillo, co-founder and executive director of the Vermont Growers Association, has been working on distributing assessment forms for cannabis businesses to understand what kind of damage has been done across the state. “It’s too early to say that,” Pizztillo said. “But I would like to emphasize that it is the entire supply chain. All kinds of licenses are affected, not just outdoor farmers, but retailers and manufacturers alike.”
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Vermont after the floods subsided and likened the sight to the devastation left behind by the floods. 2011 Hurricane Irene. “We can see how urgent it is to make sure these communities get the help they need.” Buttigieg said. When he visits members of the community. “…our message is for communities large and small. The federal government is here to help provide needed resources.”
Vermont’s cannabis businesses don’t benefit from federal aid, but Pizztillo and others hope to prepare an accurate picture of the damage situation so the company can at least qualify for emergency state funding, which could be approved by the Special Congress. “I think the best thing we can do with the Cannabis Commission is collect the data and put it in front of Congress,” Pepper said. “And then it will be to see if there is the political will to support companies that are being hit very hard by this.”
Vermont’s Recreational Cannabis Act was signed into law by Governor Scott in October 2020, but it took two years before sales began. The state has raised $2.6 million in just three months after it began selling recreational cannabis, reaching $24 million by May 2023.