Pressure mounts on federal funders to include cannabis in COVID-19 aid

“We are not asking for special treatment, but rather equitable treatment,” reads a letter signed by more than 70 cannabis companies

The COVID-19 pandemic is shuttering businesses across the country, but the Canadian cannabis sector continues to be left out of economic relief plans. 

Earlier this month, a senior account manager from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) notified Dan Sutton, the CEO of Vancouver’s Tantalus Labs, that “we do not do business with cannabis firms at the time.” The news came after the BDC and the Export Development Canada (EDC) had announced additional loans and liquidity were coming for Canadian businesses. 

Last Thursday, the co-chairs for the Parliamentary Cannabis Caucus wrote a letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau asking the federal government to include the Canadian cannabis sector in Ottawa’s plans. 

“Cannabis firms frequently face economic stigmatization despite serving a legal and strictly regulated market in Canada. As a result, their access to capital, including credit, is often problematic,” the letter states, before asking for economic aid and calling on the government to temporarily suspend regulatory fees and federal taxes imposed on medical cannabis. 

The BDC has not yet detailed how the relief for any Canadian businesses will be allocated. 

Simply, we need to ensure that support available to other Canadian businesses is equally available to the cannabis sector, which employs thousands of Canadians,” Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Liberal MP and co-chair of the cannabis caucus, told The GrowthOp“It’s wholly inappropriate for BDC to exclude the cannabis sector from financing in these difficult and unprecedented times.”

The following day, another letter signed by more than 70 cannabis companies was sent to Morneau and Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“On behalf of the regulated cannabis sector, its employees, shareholders, customers/patients, and companies, we are requesting that the Government of Canada implement immediate measures to provide economic stimulus to our industry,” the letter says. 

The document asks the government to allow the cannabis sector to access wage subsidies, and the funding announced through the EDC and BDC. 

The letter is signed by representatives from Aurora, Canopy Rivers, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Cannabis Policy Council, among others. 

“We are asking that this industry, which has added a cumulative total of $8 billion to the Canadian GDP over the course of the last year, specifically and explicitly be included in all economic stimulus measures and provided the support that is being offered to every other Canadian business at this time,” the letter states. 

“We are not asking for special treatment, but rather equitable treatment.”


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