The federally illegal cannabis industry has long been denied services provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA), but that could change under legislation that U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., introduced this week.

The Fair Access for Cannabis Small Business Act, introduced Nov. 17, would ensure state-legal cannabis businesses can access loans and programs provided by the SBA, which currently excludes all small businesses with direct or indirect products or services that aid the use, growth or enhancement of cannabis from accessing its services.

“The unfair barriers to basic federal support and resources have hurt our state’s legally-operating cannabis small businesses,” Rosen said in a public statement. “This legislation will level the playing field so that cannabis small businesses—including those owned by people of color, women, and veterans—have access to the same federal resources and loans that other legal businesses are entitled to.”

Specifically, the bill would ensure that cannabis businesses have access to SBA’s 7(a) loans, disaster loans, microloans, the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, and SBA’s resource partners, which include SCORE, Veterans Business Outreach Centers and Women’s Business Centers.

“For Black and brown communities that have been ravaged by the war on drugs for decades, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as the end of cannabis prohibition comes near,” Khadijah Tribble, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council, said in a public statement. “But without access to capital through financing tools like SBA loans, most Black and brown cannabis entrepreneurs won’t get the chance to profit from an industry that was once used to stigmatize them—even in states where the plant has been legalized.

“Sen. Rosen’s landmark legislation would help advance equity and innovation in the cannabis industry by leveling the playing field for independent cannabis operators,” Tribble continued. “If paired with the SAFE Banking Act, The Fair Access for Cannabis Small Businesses Act would create a regulatory framework that would ensure a vibrant startup scene and a diversity of players.”

In March 2020, Rosen joined a coalition of 10 other senators in sending a letter to leadership to ask the SBA to extend economic assistance to the cannabis industry after cannabis operators were excluded from federal COVID-19 relief efforts.

RELATED: Cannabis Operators Excluded from SBA’s Disaster Assistance During COVID-19 Pandemic

Rosen led her colleagues last year to submit a letter to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to request that cannabis businesses gain access to SBA loans, and sent another letter earlier this year to again urge Senate Appropriations to prevent the SBA from excluding cannabis businesses from its loan and entrepreneurship programs.

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