House passes HEROES Act, with cannabis banking • Aurora enters US • Massachusetts adult use sales to resume • & more…

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The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which includes SAFE Banking. 

The House passed a COVID-19 relief package known as the HEROES Act that includes legislation to open up banking to cannabis businesses. As Cannabis Wire noted in our coverage of the bill, the thinking is that the cash-only nature of the cannabis industry could help spread the virus. 

The bill faces a very steep path to passage, and is unlikely to pass as is in the GOP-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly voiced his disappointment in the House approach to the coronavirus relief bill, and the inclusion of cannabis, recently taking to Twitter. 

“This week Speaker Pelosi published an 1,800-page catalog of left-wing oddities & called it a coronavirus relief bill. It proposes tax hikes on small business, giveaways to blue-state millionaires, checks for illegal immigrants, and diversity detectives for the cannabis industry,” McConnell tweeted

The vote was 208 to 199. 

On that note: Attorneys general push for cannabis banking. 

This week, 34 state and territorial attorneys general sent a letter to Congressional leadership, urging them to pass legislation that opens up the cannabis industry’s access to banking. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply focused the need for legislative relief in three key respects. First, threats to public safety caused by a cash-intensive business model, often the target of criminal activity, have intensified in the months since the pandemic began. Next, the presence of large cash transactions places law enforcement, tax regulators, consumers, and patients at heightened risk of exposure to the virus,” the attorneys general wrote. “Finally, the ability to efficiently collect tax revenue from the marijuana industry, estimated to have generated $15 billion in sales in 2019, will provide critical relief for state and local governments predicting budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.”

The attorneys general also wrote that advancing cannabis banking legislation would not be an endorsement of legalization, or of cannabis-related financial transactions, but “rather, it reflects a recognition of the realities on the ground and an embrace of our federalist system of government that is flexible enough to accommodate divergent state approaches.”

Aurora Cannabis is coming to the US.

Taking a page from Canopy Growth’s playbook, Aurora Cannabis is entering the US market via hemp, which is federally legal. Canadian cannabis companies, which are listed on major stock exchanges in the US, would risk that listing if they broke federal law in the US, where, unlike in Canada, high-THC cannabis remains federally illegal.

(ICYMI: read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of Canopy’s hemp and lobbying efforts in the US. Canopy’s US lobbying was first reported by Cannabis Wire.)

Aurora will acquire all of the shares of CBD company Reliva, LLC, in exchange for $40 million of Aurora’s common shares. President and CEO of Reliva Miguel Martin, will become president of the newly formed Aurora USA. Martin was formerly the president of e-cig company Logic Technology, and SVP and general manager at tobacco company Altria (sales and distribution).

Massachusetts’ adult use sales can resume next week.

As part of the state’s reopening plan, which will include four “phases,” a number of businesses can begin on the path to normal operations, including adult use cannabis businesses. On May 25, Phase 1 can begin. This includes: “Retail (such as clothing stores, toy stores, jewelry stores, nurseries and garden centers that don’t sell food products, adult use cannabis stores).”

But, this is for “curbside pickup and delivery only.” Phase 2 will include “browsing inside the store with restrictions.”

It is not clear when Phase 2 will begin, only that “each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer before moving to the next phase.”

Read the full reopening plan here. And read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of the state’s cannabis industry’s call for state aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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