Cannabis Businesses Deemed “Essential” in California Under COVID-19 Orders

In an effort to “flatten the curve” of this coronavirus pandemic, state & local governments are taking unprecedented measures to stop dine-in restaurant service, close gyms and movie theaters, and ban or limit all gatherings to fight the spread of the coronavirus.  What remains open are those establishments that are considered to be “essential businesses”.

What Are “Essential Businesses”?

State & local governments designate as “essential businesses” those businesses or firms that perform an essential government function. While the list may vary between different jurisdictions, they typically include:

  • Healthcare operations, including home health workers.
  • Essential infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities.
  • Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores.
  • Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities.
  • Pharmacies, healthcare supply stores and healthcare facilities.
  • Gas stations and auto repair facilities.
  • Garbage collection.
  • Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, pool service, landscape maintenance, exterminators and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses.
  • Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning.
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers.
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food and goods directly to residences.
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home, including electronic stores, mobile phone stores and office supply stores.
  • Airlines, taxis and other transportation providers offering services needed for essential activities.
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults or children.
  • Childcare facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work.
  • Roles required for any essential business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll and similar activities.
  • Hotels, motels and lawfully permitted vacation rentals and homesharing.

Are Cannabis Businesses “Essential Businesses”?

Again you need to check with your local jurisdiction but at the State level in California the California Department Of Health (CDPH) and the Bureau Of Cannabis Control (BCC) have issued orders making all cannabis retailers and the businesses that support them in the cannabis industry “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing retailers, cultivators, and manufacturers to stay in operation. However, California cities and counties are able to enact their own rules regarding how patients and others may purchase cannabis so you should still check with your local government to see if any local rules apply.

All licensed cannabis businesses in good standing are included as “Essential Businesses” and must follow the existing terms of any local Order as written. Click here for the Order issued by the CDPH. Such Order typically requires that they, like all other Essential Businesses, establish practices that includes 6-foot distances between individuals, frequent 20-second hand-washing or hand-sanitizing, cough and sneeze covering, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and avoiding all social greetings involving contact (handshaking, etc.). These best practices of authorized curbside pickup and contact-less delivery are expected to protect customers and employees by reducing contact.

Tax Relief For All Businesses And Individuals

President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. Therefore, under Sec. 7508A, the declaration of an emergency under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, P.L. 100-707, the IRS is allowed to delay certain tax filing and payment deadlines.

The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus and as information becomes available, the IRS will be updating this special page on its website.

On March 18, 2020 the Treasury Department and the IRS issued the first formal guidance.  The Treasury Department and IRS are extending the due date for Federal income tax payments and Federal income tax returns due April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, for payments due of up to $10 million for corporations and up to $1 million (now unlimited) for individuals – regardless of filing status – and other unincorporated entities. Associated interest, additions to tax, and penalties for late payment will also be suspended until July 15, 2020.

Click here for the press release issued by the Treasury Department.

Click here for Notice 2020-17 issued by the IRS.

Click here for the March 21, 2020 press release issued by the IRS.

This relief is available solely with respect to:

  • Federal income tax payments (including payments of tax on self-employment income) due on April 15, 2020, in respect of an affected taxpayer’s 2019 taxable year, and
  • Federal estimated income tax payments (including payments of tax on self-employment income) due on April 15, 2020, for an affected taxpayer’s 2020 taxable year.

Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868 for individuals and Form 7004 for corporations.

But if you are due a refund you should file as soon as possible. The IRS states that most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

Remember that COVID-19 does not alter the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do.

The take away from this – use the Federal government’s downtime to your advantage to prepare for the future.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including Walnut Creek and San Jose) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.