More than $100,000 in relief funds granted to small cannabis businesses with more funds planned for distribution in December
This week, 12 cannabis businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, women, and people previously arrested for cannabis received NuFuel COVID-19 Relief Grants funded by cannabis tax dollars from the City of Portland and administered by NuLeaf Project. This is the first round of two COVID-19 relief grant funding waves to Portland-area cannabis businesses. On average, each business was granted just under $9,000.
Applications for the second round of funding open Monday, Nov 23. Cannabis businesses conducting sales in the City of Portland can apply with priority placed on businesses owned by people from communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition – Black, Indigenous, and Latina/o/x communities.
Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Black-owned businesses have experienced the most closures due to the pandemic versus any other racial or ethnic group, with Latinx business owners hit second-hardest. Lack of access to funding is cited as a primary reason. Cannabis-licensed businesses cannot receive federal pandemic relief funds like the Paycheck Protection Program. NuFuel COVID-19 Relief Grant Funds are a direct response to federal funds being closed to cannabis businesses.
Prosper Portland executive director Kimberly Branam said, “It’s imperative to focus these cannabis tax dollars toward the nexus of our most vulnerable and underfunded small businesses – cannabis licensees and BIPOC-owned businesses.”
According to a NuLeaf Project survey of cannabis business owners in Oregon, during the pandemic, cannabis retailers have experienced slower in-store sales largely attributed to sharp decline in summer tourist traffic. Retailers also report a reduction in store traffic from vulnerable groups like seniors. According to U.S. cannabis retail point-of-sale data, cannabis consumers 50 and older are the highest spending shoppers per trip. Sales for certain cannabis product categories, topicals and tinctures, are carried by the senior consumer. Brands in those categories reported steep sales losses stemming from senior cannabis consumers staying at home.
Beyond retail and products, cannabis business owners report sales losses across diverse business types from cannabis events companies to cultivators. Sales losses are in addition to increased expenses from COVID-19 protocols mandated for all businesses, additional pandemic mandates for cannabis businesses from the state’s cannabis regulatory agency, and a “pandemic tax” rise in cost of goods across various materials and services.
NuLeaf Project research reveals the unseen consequences of the pandemic are business stalls and failed starts which have a disproportionate impact on entrepreneurs of color. NuLeaf Project Executive Director Jeannette Ward Horton explained, “Fledgling cannabis growers can’t get meetings with new buyers because no one will take meetings face-to-face, critical for selling cannabis. Working with who you know – a common hurdle for business owners of color – is an even higher, almost impenetrable hurdle to scale during a pandemic. Another unfortunate consequence of the pandemic is that Oregon’s pipeline of new businesses could be less diverse. These grants are a powerful bridge. Supporting Black and brown small business owners is what cannabis taxes should do.”
Megon Dee (pictured above), CEO of Oracle Wellness Co and grant recipient, said, “With a cannabis record over my head, after finishing my college degree, I found it challenging to land even a simple job in customer service. Finding funds and support for my business is an inequity I’ve faced. This grant sustains the growth path for Oracle Wellness Co.”
Grant recipient Jackson McCormack, CEO and Founder of Natural Wonders, said, “This grant is such an important piece of assistance that cannabis businesses are generally excluded from. Allowing us to focus on business instead of crisis in a year full of the latter seriously strengthens our ability to stabilize and helps set us up to thrive.”
For more information on qualifications and dates for the second wave of NuFuel COVID-19 Relief Grants, visit http://www.nuleafproject.org/the-work/