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Lacking Federal Recourse, Cannabis Industry Warily Navigates Pandemic

Moss Crossing

Many cannabis shops are experiencing an economic “high” lately, as people seek to alleviate the stress of the pandemic. Yet, as KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, dispensary owners also know they’ve little recourse should they go under.

On one hand, cannabis stores are like other retail operations affected by COVID-19. They’ve limited access and are sanitizing like never before.  But Heidi Fikstad, co-founder of Moss Crossing in Eugene, knows other small businesses can apply for federal economic injury disaster loans


Credit Moss Crossing
Bud tender Tyler Banks works the register at Moss Crossing.

“If we do close down, we don’t have anything coming from the federal government to help us,” Fikstad tells KLCC.

That’s because while cannabis is legal in Oregon, it remains illegal on the federal level.

“That’s why we see such high tax rates because of the 280E tax law, which was initially intended to keep legitimate drug dealers from being able to take tax deductions," continues Fikstad. 

"So it came from a good place, now it’s antiquated.”

Credit Moss Crossing
Heidi Fikstad, co-founder and CEO of Moss Crossing.

Fikstad says they’re relying on steady business, and working with limited staff.  She says she's not had to work the floor for three years, and schedules are tight.

In the meantime, Moss Crossing has added delivery and in-store pickup services to help facilitate business while keeping customers and staff safe as possible.

Recent efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level haven’t progressed much in Congress.  Fikstad says given all of the economic upheaval caused by COVID-19, it's unlikely the matter will be addressed any time soon by Oregon's delegation...or any state's for that matter.

"At the same time, we just appreciate staying open and helping our customers with this difficult time," she adds.

"I feel that we're an essential service, too."

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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