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July 30, 2021

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Cannabis dispensaries face pandemic without federal aid

Marijuana Dispensaries

Steve Marcus

An exterior view of Inyo Fine Cannabis marijuana dispensary, 2520 S. Maryland Parkway, Saturday, April 25, 2020.

Marijuana Dispensaries

An exterior view of Top Notch THC (The Health Center) marijuana dispensary, 5630 Stephanie St., Saturday, April 25, 2020. Launch slideshow »

David Goldwater, a partner at Inyo Fine Cannabis Dispensary in Las Vegas, said his company is “treading water” during the coronavirus business shutdown, staying afloat with still-allowed home deliveries.

While other struggling small businesses can get help through federal forgivable loans to pay their employees and cover other basic expenses, marijuana-related enterprises have been left out in the cold.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada and many other states, but it remains illegal under federal law. Some people see cannabis as something “bad or evil or not worth the federal government’s attention,” Goldwater said.

To help curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Steve Sisolak in mid-March ordered all nonessential businesses closed for 30 days, later extending the lockdown until at least Thursday.

Kema Ogden, a co-owner of Top Notch THC in Las Vegas, said that while dispensaries like hers were allowed to stay open for home deliveries, the shutdown has had a dramatic impact on sales.

Top Notch used to see 1,200 to 1,500 customers a day at the dispensary; it does about 300 deliveries a day, Ogden said.

“We weren’t designed and set up for delivery in that way, not for that amount of volume,” Ogden said. “So, it definitely has affected us because we can only deliver to a small amount of the people who were able to come in.”

Riana Durrett, executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, said cannabis businesses face other financial hurdles, too, such as significant regulation and overhead costs and a greater payroll than many other retail outfits.

“I think what nobody outside of the industry realizes is that it was already a struggle to be profitable in this industry,” she said.

Some Nevada lawmakers, meanwhile, are pushing to have the cannabis industry included in future Small Business Administration relief programs.

“Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their community and workforce,” Nevada Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement also signed by eight other senators.

“Therefore, we ask Senate leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times,” the statement said.