Congress has done little to address the issue. A group of Oregon lawmakers introduced a bill in September that would make federal disaster funding available to the cannabis industry, but it has little chance of passing in the waning days of this Congress. Separate legislation would create better access to banking — potentially allowing some small business owners to borrow money to pay for insurance or to cover losses — but it would not give farmers access to federal crop subsidies or encourage insurers to cater to the industry.
Since May, cannabis businesses from Oregon to Massachusetts have dealt with both natural and man-made disasters. As protests over racial injustice erupted across the country, so did looters — many targeting cannabis dispensaries in cities including Portland and Oakland, Calif. Then, wildfires destroyed farms and spewed ash at sensitive crops from Central California to northern Washington state. Many of the small business owners, like Haworth, are facing one or both of these crises without insurance.
Some advocates and industry leaders have called for state governments to create insurance or disaster funds for companies where there are legal marijuana markets, but no state has done so at this point. Others say the only thing that will solve this problem is federal legalization of marijuana.
Thirty-three states have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, but the federal government still lists it as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act — a category that includes heroin and means the drug does not have any medical value and can be highly addictive.
The classification means marijuana does not qualify for any federal funding — including crop insurance or FEMA disaster assistance. And crop insurance without federal funding can be prohibitively expensive.
For most other agricultural commodities — like avocados, tea and maple syrup —