In observance of Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, 1977, we’re republishing Michael Chance’s investigation into his untimely end, which originally appeared in the November, 1980 edition of High Times magazine.
Dick Grob looks like the kind of guy the Village People are always pretending to be: built like a bollard, with arms like steel cables and an all-encompassing eye that is hypersensitive to trouble. But Dick Grob is the real McCoy. After a stint in the Army he was a cop for several years, then took on one of the toughest bodyguard assignments in the business: chief of security for Elvis Presley.
Guarding the king of rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t easy. In addition to hysterical fans, scene crashers and the usual assortment of weirdos and sleazoids that plague the life of all superstars, there had been an unsettling rise in the number of violent attacks on the King lately. One such incident, in fact, had been instrumental in catapulting Grob to his position. A drunk trying to invade Presley’s quarters backstage at Lake Tahoe had mixed it up with security chief Red West, another gas-pump figure of a man, who immediately disposed of the intruder. When the ruffled drunk sobered up he pressed charges, and in part to mollify the defendant, West had been fired.
But another important part of Grob’s job was guarding Presley from himself. Dr. George Nichopoulos, Presley’s personal physician for more than a decade, had asked security, along with the other high-ranking Presley aides-de-camp, to be on the lookout for drugs that mysterious outside figures were providing the rock star. Elvis had already been in the detox tank twice to reverse the effects of his gluttonous consumption of drugs and now “Dr. Nick” was worried. Then one day, just a few hours after Grob had left Presley playing racquetball at his Memphis mansion, he received a call from Graceland saying that the King was dead.
Now, almost three years later, Dr. Nick faces criminal charges for overprescribing prescription drugs; the questions surrounding Presley’s death are still unresolved. Dick Grob tries to be loyal to both his master and the man who many believe killed him. He shakes his head sadly.
“They’re making a scapegoat out of Dr. Nick,” he says with a jerk of his thumb over his shoulder at a noisy camera crew from a local TV station. “You know, if it was you or me who died this whole thing never would have happened. But this was Elvis Presley, the most famous man alive. They had to hang somebody and they settled on Dr. Nick. They all want to be like Geraldo Rivera.”
Geraldo Rivera, the celebrity ABC-TV newsman, whooshes by with a teetering carton load of coffee cups. As the perky newsman with the Dudley Doright chin disappears into the hearing room of the Memphis City Council, he is followed by the dagger stares of a half dozen people lounging in the anteroom.
“That guy’s real name is Jerry Rivers,” cracks a voice.
“And he ain’t Puerto Rican, he’s Jewish,” responds another. “He just calls himself that to get the minority status.” There is a general peal of laughter, joined by the guards, a couple of rubberneckers from the D. A.’s office and some nervous newshounds out for a cigarette. The media aren’t thought of too kindly here in Memphis, where they’re dragging the city’s greatest icon through the mud.
Grob takes a puff off a cigarette and rubs his grizzled jaw.
“You know, I’m not saying that Elvis ever did any of the things that a lot of these sensationalist accounts claim he did. I never saw him do any drugs. In this business we deal all the time with people who pull out bottles of cocaine or offer a joint, and I never once saw Elvis do any of them.”
“And I’m not saying that any of the charges against Dr. Nick are even remotely true. For what I saw, he tried to help the man and was concerned for his health, watched out for him, kept him from himself. But I’m just saying that if Elvis Presley did do all those drugs that people say and he accomplished in his lifetime what he accomplished, well then, I think I just may go and get me some of that stuff.”
Dick Grob’s conclusion that the media were to blame for Dr. Nick’s problems and the decaying image of Elvis Presley is one shared by many in this music- and history-rich city. Elvis is a God here: You can buy Elvis shoes, Elvis combs, Elvis recipes and even Elvis wine—and Elvis never drank wine. You can sleep in the Elvis Presley Inn on Elvis Presley Boulevard and, along with several thousand people a day—still, three years after his death—visit the Elvis Presley memorial at Elvis Presley’s mansion, Graceland. Elvis’s all-American image—long sought prize of an uphill battle that began on the “Ed Sullivan Show” with the famous censure of Elvis’s hip swinging and ended with Elvis’s Las Vegas successes—is not just a spiritual ideal here, but an industry.
Within a few weeks Dr. Nick is going on trial to answer a 14-count indictment charging him with “feloniously dispensing” prescription drugs to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and nine other people, including himself. If found guilty he could get ten years on each count and a $20,000 fine. The charges stem from prescription records that show Dr. Nick prescribed more than 12,000 controlled substances—mostly speed and downers—to the singer during his last 18 months alive.
The case is shaping up not as one of the showboat trials of the century but it could set some landmark legal precedents. Not since “Dr. Jake”—Max Jacobson—lost his license for turning John Kennedy into a speed freak, almost causing a war with Russia over Cuba (Kennedy had just been shot up with methedrine before he went on TV for his famous “eyeball to eyeball” speech), has the question of a doctor’s responsibility to his pill-hungry patients been brought so glaringly into the public eye.
Initially, a lot of people felt Dr. Nick was to blame for Elvis’s death and the 12,000 ups and downs certainly didn’t do much to prolong the singer’s life. But since then, as the story of Elvis’s 20-year battle with drugs came out of the closet, some of Dr. Nick’s detractors have softened up and they now see him as a curious sort of victim too.
“He was like a man trying to ride a mad elephant,” summed up one of Elvis’s entourage during hearings by the Tennessee Medical Board on Dr. Nick’s license. “Elvis was going to take drugs no matter what. Dr. Nick had his hands full just keeping track of and controlling the dope that Elvis put in his mouth. Elvis probably would have had more troubles with drugs if it hadn’t been for Dr. Nick.”
This defense was accepted by most of the five-member medical board who then issued the minor penalty of a three-month license suspension. It will also be the backbone of the criminal defense. During the hearings earlier this year, witness after witness described Elvis as a man who spent the last ten years with a monkey on his back the size of King Kong. Marty Lacker, old friend and top aide who was Elvis’s best man at his wedding; Joe Esposito, chief of staff for the Presley empire; Letitia Henley, the nurse Dr. Nick had installed behind Graceland to monitor and control Elvis’s drug taking, and even Dr. Nick himself took turns in the witness chair recalling Elvis’s drug habits.
“Presley would wake up after sleeping a few hours, reach for a table and if there were pills there he would maybe take four,” related Joe Esposito. “Sometimes he’d wake up at 2 p.m., think it was 2 a.m. and take some more pills; then we’d have to get him up at 4 p.m. to get ready for a concert and Elvis thinking it’s the middle of the night.” Implicitly this is the major question of the trial: Did Dr. Nick cause Elvis’s death by prescribing the drugs that may have killed him? It is a tar-baby question that may never be resolved. It has never been firmly evidenced that Presley died of a drug overdose—a fact that the defense hopes to capitalize on. The debate still rages over how Presley died, and it is dubious that much further light will be shed in the criminal trial.
The evidence for an overdose is strong. On the day Elvis was found slumped in front of the toilet and an ambulance summoned, the first person who arrived, ambulance attendant Ulysses Smith, was told by people at the door that Elvis had suffered a drug overdose. Elvis displayed symptoms of an overdose death: an enlarged heart and liver, blue face, eyes so dilated that long after Elvis had been pronounced dead by other doctors at Baptist Memorial Hospital, Dr. Nick was still desperately trying to resuscitate him and convince the others to help on the basis that Elvis’s pupils were still dilated. Elvis entered the hospital as an OD patient; it was entered on his chart and preparations were made to treat him for an OD. Part of the reason the hospital prepared for OD treatment was their private knowledge that Elvis had been treated twice for drug addiction at the hospital in the last five years. Finally, the hospital chief of pathology, Eric Muirhead, conducted a preliminary autopsy and attributed the cause of death to a fatal combination of drugs.
However, a few days later an “official” autopsy was issued by Shelby County Medical Examiner Jerry Francisco concluding that “Elvis died of heart failure. The drugs neither caused nor contributed to his death.”
There was a storm of controversy, particularly in the light of an explosive best-seller by Presley’s canned bodyguards—Red West, Sonny West and Dave Hebler—Elvis, What Happened? The book chronicled long years of drug abuse not just by Presley, but his whole entourage. “Pills to get up in the morning, pills during the day, pills at night to go to sleep.”
The three authors, while the first to publicly pillory Elvis for his dope habits, are strong in their defense of Dr. Nick. “I can tell you that of all the doctors and medical people Elvis was involved with that I have knowledge of, the only one who was worth a damn…is George Nichopoulos. Doctor Nick is the only doctor who didn’t give Elvis crap,” says Dave Hebler.
Dr. Nick became Elvis’s doctor in 1967 after meeting him at a horse ranch in California. Nichopoulos had a steady practice and a good reputation in Memphis, where he treated the rich Southern aristocracy who are so overrepresented in the bustling river city. A couple of years later when Elvis settled in Memphis, he began to rely more and more on Dr. Nick’s advice until the doctor became not only the King’s reigning medicine man but a close friend.
Dr. Nick was acquainted with Elvis’s drug problems almost from the start Elvis had gotten a taste for speed while living in Germany during his Army stint, according to several sources, and later used the drug to keep awake for the long all-night drives he preferred to flying and to pep him up for stage appearances. On the witness stand at the medical-board hearings, Nichopoulos described how Elvis would come to him before a show and beg him for ups.
“Frequently he would have gone many hours without sleep. He said he couldn’t do the show without them. I felt under such circumstances the dispensation was warranted.”
Dr. Nick’s outside practice dwindled and he spent more and more time with Elvis. He often accompanied him on tours. Dr. Nick explained during his medical-board hearing that it was his presence on these tours that accounted for the extremely high number of prescribed pills to Presley.
“I was the doctor for the entire entourage, over a hundred people. All of the drugs were prescribed in Presley’s name—that’s the way he wanted it. These drugs were then used for a variety of complaints. Usually about half would be left over. These were thrown away.”
This story was reinforced by other witnesses at the board hearing who also agreed that Dr. Nick had done his best to keep Elvis from doing drugs by trying to cut off the singer’s surreptitious outside supply sources and substituting placebos for the real thing. Marty Lacker told how drugs were sometimes sent to Elvis under phony names and how Dr. Nick had alerted the staff to be on the lookout for this ruse. He also praised Dr. Nick for encouraging the singer—who at the time of his death weighed 240 pounds—to exercise, an endorsement echoed by Joe Esposito and others.
But at the core of Dr. Nick’s defense at the board hearings and the core of his defense at the upcoming trial is that Elvis was, unlike his public image as a shy, aw-shucks country boy, a tyrannical, megalomaniacal, spoiled mama’s boy whose fame led him to believe himself invulnerable to the normal human frailties. He was repeatedly warned of the possible consequences of his habit—advice he chose to ignore with the greatest arrogance. Instead he bounced through life from one emotional extremity to another: fits of weeping, fits of adulation, fits of giving in which he would lavish tens of thousands of dollars worth of cars, jewels and money to whomever suited his fancy.
“He was a very strong-willed individual,” judged Nichopoulos on the stand. “He did not take no for an answer. If he wanted something he would just go around me. I told him he was just defeating himself.” This characterization of Presley was repeated by many others, including Presley’s girl friend, Ginger Alden.
Since there was no hope of altering his behavior, continues this defense, the best hope for Elvis’s health lay in controlling his behavior. Already Elvis had come dangerously close to overdosing on several occasions and had twice been hospitalized. Dr. Nick was frequently on the road with Elvis the last few years, summoned repeatedly by the singer, who suffered from a host of real and imagined ailments. He demanded drugs and if Dr. Nick didn’t get them he would hire somebody to go out and find them.
“He would go out and find other doctors who would prescribe him whatever he wanted. He did this around Memphis and elsewhere,” explained the doctor. “Or he would buy ‘off the streets.’ In either event I felt it was more important that I be the only one prescribing drugs. He obviously had a problem and I was taking an overview. It was an extreme situation: This man could get whatever he wanted.”
Dr. Nick described how he sometimes intercepted packages of drugs mailed to Presley and replaced them with harmless placebos. One such package had come from Las Vegas and Joe Esposito had found it and given it to the doctor. He had placed milk sugar in the enclosed capsules and then let Elvis have it. Elvis ate the placebos and did a show. When it was called to his attention that he had taken placebos and not the speed he had expected, he said, “I knew it all the time, I knew you guys were playing a trick on me.”
Often Dr. Nick prescribed sedatives after a particularly rigorous show. “He put on very intense productions, really put a lot of himself into them. When he was done he was wound up. This is when he wasn’t on amphetamines. He wasn’t able to sleep at all on nights like that and he often had to go on the next day. Again, I felt the treatment was medically warranted.”
At other times the doctor prescribed more unusual treatments. The prosecutor at the medical board hearings was particularly interested in an ounce of liquid cocaine prescribed to the singer in June 1977. Dr. Nick explained that “he wanted it for his throat. A lot of singers use it for a sore throat.”
However true this may be, Red West gave a somewhat different version to writer Leslie Smith. He says Presley liked coke and did it to get high. “Now, when I saw him do it, it was in later ’75, and I don’t think he was using it at that time. I saw him with a comedian up there on the 30th floor, outside on the balcony in Vegas, the Hilton. First time I ever saw him do it.”
“And after that, Elvis used to take these cotton balls and soak them and put them in his nose, and we were told it was liquid coke. He used to do that, but I actually saw him sniff it that time in ’75 and after that it was Red and Joe Esposito and these guys that were breaking the coke down, actual coke that he was going to use, breaking it down and putting BC powder or something in there so he was getting a little bit of coke but mostly BC powder or whatever it is they put in.”
Dave Hebler sums up this view of Dr. Nick: “He really, really and truly tried the best he could to protect Elvis and save his life. There was no way he could walk up to Elvis and say, ‘Hey, you damned junkie, you’re going to die you son of a bitch and you’re not going to get this anymore.’ It wouldn’t have worked.”
Still, there are those who hold Dr. Nick accountable. After Elvis’s death Dr. Nick was banned at Graceland and taken off the case of Elvis’s grandmother. He received crank calls at his home and one night at a football game somebody took a shot at him. And of course, now there is the government.
The amount of drugs Dr. Nick prescribed staggers the imagination. If they were purchased on the street the costs would reach into the millions. The charges of the medical board were listed in a 59-page complaint and included over 12,000 pills prescribed to Presley alone in the 18 months before he died. It took eight full-size legal pages to list the prescriptions. Among them: Quaaludes, Dilaudid, Dexedrine, Leritine, Parest, Amytal, Biphetamine, Tuinal, Demerol, Percodan, Dexamyl, Carbrital, Valium, Ionamin, Placidyl, Hycomine, Lomotil and cocaine. But this was, according to several sources, a short accounting.
If you include pills prescribed by Dr. Nick to Presley’s closest aides during this same period, you come up with tens of thousands of more pills. For instance, writer Leslie S. Smith, a Presley in-law who wrote an account of the aftermath following Presley’s death, turned up certified copies signed by Frank L. Kessler, owner of Kessler’s Pharmacy in Memphis, for another 13,291 pills prescribed by Dr. Nick to Marty Lacker, mostly Placidyl.
A major question that arose during the medical-board hearings and is sure to be raised in the criminal trial is what Dr. Nick received for his treatment. According to Dr. Nick’s statement, he received only the standard professional fees, plus a few of the gifts that Elvis always handed out. The prosecution turned up two items of indebtedness that Dr. Nick owed Elvis, a $25,000 cash loan and a $250,000 home-mortgage loan. Dr. Nick was asked if he had received any other money or gifts from Elvis while he was treating him and Dr. Nick assured them that he had not.
But again, there is a different version of this. Marty Lacker says that Dr. Nick once received a $20,000 Mercedes Benz, and others say he received thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. But most understated and overlooked was a $1.3 million loan guarantee that Elvis had to ante up for when a racquetball venture hatched by Dr. Nick in conjunction with Joe Esposito and a man named Michael McMahan went down in flames. Dr. Nick had introduced Presley and the “Memphis mafia” to racquetball and Elvis even had a court installed at Graceland. Everyone played. The racquetball scheme was to build courts in the glamor capitals of America: Palm Beach, Hollywood, Miami and so on. The plan soured and Elvis got stuck holding the bill.
Even more damning is the attitude of those like Patsy Lacker, Marty Lacker’s wife:
“Our life became a horror. There were so many pills that one closet shelf was filled with empty bottles. He saved the empty bottles until one night the wife of one of the guys called. She was fed up with the drugs, she had had enough. She told Marty she was calling the authorities and sending them to our house as well as to Graceland and their own place. Marty was so scared he made me take all the empty pill bottles, put them in paper bags and throw the bags out of the car along the road.”
“I knew something had to be done. The source of the pills was Elvis’s great friend and physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos. I absolutely hated what that man had done to my husband under the guise of medicine. My husband was addicted to drugs, our lives were being ruined and Nichopoulos kept the pills coming as fast as Marty wanted them.
“I went to Graceland to see Nichopoulos and told him to stop the drugs. I told him I was going to report them all if anything happened to Marty. I begged and threatened and Dr. Nichopoulos laughed at me. I’m only sorry now that I was too afraid to carry out the threats. At least we did get through it alive, which was a better fate than Elvis’s.”
Turning Point Brands Invests $15 Million in Dose-Controlled Vape Pen Company to Target CBD Market
Turning Point Brands Makes Strategic Investment into dosist™ A World-Class and Globally Recognized Cannabis Brand LOUISVILLE, Ky.-October 27, 2020-(BUSINESS WIRE)–Turning Point Brands, Inc. (“TPB”) (NYSE: TPB), a manufacturer, marketer and distributor of branded consumer products with active ingredients, today announced a $15 million strategic investment in leading global cannabinoid company dosist™ and an exclusive co-development […]
Turning Point Brands Makes Strategic Investment into dosist™ A World-Class and Globally Recognized Cannabis Brand
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-October 27, 2020-(BUSINESS WIRE)–Turning Point Brands, Inc. (“TPB”) (NYSE: TPB), a manufacturer, marketer and distributor of branded consumer products with active ingredients, today announced a $15 million strategic investment in leading global cannabinoid company dosist™ and an exclusive co-development and distribution agreement of a new national CBD brand, created in partnership with dosist’s thc-free business unit. Additionally, TPB has an option to invest another $15 million at pre-determined terms within the next 12 months.
The cannabis market is exploding and now is the opportune time to invest in the space and significantly expand our addressable market. With its leadership in results-oriented plant-based formulas and dose control technology, global recognition, consumer trust and scalability, dosist was the clear choice to be our new partner in this critical growth market.
Larry Wexler, CEO of Turning Point Brands
We couldn’t be more pleased to enter into this agreement with dosist, to not only help fuel its exciting new business and co-create a completely new CBD brand for our retail partners, but also to leverage their expertise as a marketing powerhouse to help build the future of both our companies.
“We are extremely proud to partner with Turning Point Brands on our next phase of growth and distribution as we continue to transcend the way consumers think about their health and wellness,” said Gunner Winston, CEO of dosist.
Turning Point’s leadership team has demonstrated remarkable foresight and vision about the future and opportunity for federally legal cannabinoid products. The synergy between our brands around this scope and mission is incredible and we are excited by what we will achieve together with this partnership.
Gunner Winston, CEO of dosist
Since its launch in 2016, dosist has quickly established itself as a pre-eminent and globally recognized cannabis brand through its award-winning innovations (Time Magazine, Fast Company, Bloomberg), and superior marketing prowess. The renowned dosist product portfolio, including its internationally patented dose-control inhalation technology, delivers scientifically engineered formulations targeting key human need states. dosist formulas offer consumers a complete range of solutions, starting with its core line featuring balanced ratios of cbd to thc, and their thc-plus line, a collection of high potency formulas designed for targeted thc-forward experiences.
All dosist formulas are delivered via their proprietary dose-controlled devices, which include their completely re-engineered inhalable disposable dose pen™, the newly launched dose pen™ rechargeable system and the dose dial™, which dispenses a 3.7 mg sublingual tablet. In the coming 3-6 months, dosist plans to expand on its current platform with a substantial innovation pipeline including tinctures, gummies and dynamic live resin and full spectrum formulas developed in collaboration with some of the most progressive brands in the space.
dosist’s leading cannabis products are currently available in California, Colorado, Nevada and Canada, serving a total dispensary network of more than 700 stores. The company has plans to launch into key new markets in the coming months, adding geographies as they continue their North American expansion. dosist has consistently elevated the retail experience across all markets which they currently service, including a transformative retail store on iconic Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, CA, and a flagship shop-in-shop in Planet 13 in Las Vegas, the largest cannabis retail destination in the world, in addition to other numerous and impactful retail experiences across their distribution channels.
In addition to their robust portfolio of current and upcoming thc-regulated products, dosist plans to launch a globally scaled omni-channel platform in November, dosist thc-free™, bringing the brand’s leading standards of precision, quality and targeted performance to the rapidly growing CBD market across multiple product lines. The partnership between TPB and dosist also includes the co-creation of a completely new national CBD brand aimed at the mass market. This partnership combines Turning Point Brands’ best-in-class sales and operations infrastructure with dosist’s expertise in product innovation, marketing and brand development. The new brand will be exclusively distributed by TPB, which services more than 180,000 points of sale in the United States.
dosist thc-free products will be available nationally across the US starting early November at www.dosistthcfree.com and select retailers. For more information about dosist thc-free and its products follow them on Instagram @dosistthcfree.
The proceeds of TPB’s investment are being used by dosist’s thc-free and Canadian business units and cannot be used in connection with or for any cannabis or cannabis-related operations in the United States, unless and until such operations comply with all applicable laws of the United States. TPB has been issued a warrant to receive preferred shares of dosist that will automatically be exercised upon a change in federal laws in the United States to reschedule or deschedule cannabis and/or permit its general cultivation, distribution and possession. As part of this agreement, TPB will also have an option to fill a seat on the board of directors of dosist upon legalization.
About Turning Point Brands, Inc.
Turning Point Brands (NYSE: TPB) is a manufacturer, marketer and distributor of branded consumer products with active ingredients through its iconic core brands Zig-Zag® and Stoker’s®, and its emerging brands within the NewGen segment. TPB’s products are available in more than 210,000 retail outlets in North America in addition to sites such as www.zigzag.com, www.nu-x.com and www.solacevapor.com. For the latest news and information about TPB and its brands, please visit www.turningpointbrands.com.
dosist™, based in Los Angeles, California, launched in 2016 and has since become known as a disruptor in the health and wellness industry. dosist was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2016, was recognized by Fast Company as one of 2018’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the health sector, and was designated by LinkedIn as the number two Top Startups 2019: Hottest U.S. Companies To Work For Now. dosist’s new thc-free business is scheduled to launch in early November, providing natural options for some of our most common ailments through dose-controlled targeted cbd+ formulations such as calm thc-free™, sleep thc-free™ and relief thc-free™. For more information about dosist thc-free™ and its products visit the website at dosistthcfree.com and follow them on Instagram @dosistthcfree.
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Aurora Cannabis Files New $500 Million Shelf After Exhausting Prior One
Aurora Cannabis Announces Filing of Preliminary Base Shelf Prospectus and Provides Update on Balance Sheet Strength Existing At-The-Market (ATM) program now complete New Preliminary Base Shelf Prospectus Has Been Filed Current Cash Position is Approximately $272 million EDMONTON, AB, Oct. 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ – Aurora Cannabis Inc. (the “Company” or “Aurora”) (NYSE: ACB) (TSX: ACB), the Canadian company defining […]
Aurora Cannabis Announces Filing of Preliminary Base Shelf Prospectus and Provides Update on Balance Sheet Strength
- Existing At-The-Market (ATM) program now complete
- New Preliminary Base Shelf Prospectus Has Been Filed
- Current Cash Position is Approximately $272 million
EDMONTON, AB, Oct. 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ – Aurora Cannabis Inc. (the “Company” or “Aurora”) (NYSE: ACB) (TSX: ACB), the Canadian company defining the future of cannabinoids worldwide, today announced it has completed the previously filed At-The-Market (“ATM”) program. Because of this, the Company has filed a new preliminary short form base shelf prospectus (the “Shelf Prospectus”) with securities regulators in each of the provinces of Canada, except Quebec, and a corresponding shelf registration statement on Form F–10 (the “Registration Statement”) with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”).
The base shelf prospectus when made final, will allow the Company to make offerings of up to U.S.$500 million of common shares, preferred shares, warrants, subscription receipts and debt securities, or any combination thereof during the 25-month period that the base shelf prospectus remains effective. The specific terms of any offering of securities, including the use of proceeds from any offering, will be set forth in a prospectus supplement to the Shelf Prospectus, which will be filed with the applicable Canadian securities regulatory authorities and the SEC. Aurora filed the Shelf Prospectus in order to provide the Company with continued financial flexibility going forward.
With the completion of the previously filed ATM program, the Company currently has available cash resources of approximately $272 million, in addition of undrawn revolver capacity of approximately $11 million.
Aurora is a global leader in the cannabis industry serving both the medical and consumer markets. Headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, Aurora is a pioneer in global cannabis dedicated to helping people improve their lives. The Company’s brand portfolio includes Aurora, Aurora Drift, San Rafael ’71, Daily Special, AltaVie, MedReleaf, CanniMed, Whistler, and Reliva CBD. Providing customers with innovative, high-quality cannabis products, Aurora’s brands continue to break through as industry leaders in the medical, performance, wellness and recreational markets wherever they are launched. For more information, please visit our website at www.auroramj.com.
Aurora’s Common Shares trade on the TSX and NYSE under the symbol “ACB”, and is a constituent of the S&P/TSX Composite Index.
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Accountants from Coast to Coast Meet to Discuss Cannabis Issues
This week, the California and Colorado Society of CPAs, along with 18 other state CPA groups, from Alabama to Iowa, are hosting a virtual event that they hope will answer some of the toughest cannabis-related questions that certified public accountants face as they advise clients in the industry. Topics included how the cannabis industry was […]
This week, the California and Colorado Society of CPAs, along with 18 other state CPA groups, from Alabama to Iowa, are hosting a virtual event that they hope will answer some of the toughest cannabis-related questions that certified public accountants face as they advise clients in the industry.
Topics included how the cannabis industry was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how it might recover, hemp and cannabidiol in food, intellectual property and taxation, and regulatory, banking, and labor issues.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, kicked off the event with a birds-eye update on cannabis. While much of the national cannabis conversation has focused on whether President Donald Trump might legalize cannabis if re-elected, or if former Vice President Joe Biden will go beyond his plan to decriminalize, Smith emphasized that attention should be on the five states that have adult use and medical legalization on their ballots this fall (New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Montana).
“Because of the federalist system in this country, states are able to really be the laboratories of democracy,” Smith said, pointing toward strong polling in New Jersey, the state’s population of nine million, and its “significance in the region.”
“New York, for example, has been looking to enact adult use cannabis laws for a couple of years. Came very close last year. And I think that victory in New Jersey in November will really be kind of the thing that tips New York early in 2021, and then perhaps Pennsylvania and Connecticut,” Smith said.
Given that many people in the audience were accountants or attorneys, it didn’t take long for the conversation to shift to the Internal Revenue Service. (Read Cannabis Wire’s resource page on tax hurdles faced by the cannabis industry.)
“The crushing and unfair provision of the tax code Section 280E, which doesn’t allow businesses to take their deductions in our industry, is really holding us back,” Smith said.
Smith mentioned how the COVID-19 pandemic, in some ways, slowed attempts at national cannabis policy reform. The SAFE Banking Act, which had momentum before the virus hit, has taken a back seat as lawmakers shifted away from “anything that’s not directly related to either the public health crisis that the pandemic posed, or the economic fallout of the pandemic, understandably so,” Smith said. And while the HEROES Act, the House-passed COVID-19 relief bill, includes SAFE Banking language, “the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has now moved the Senate into prioritizing, fast-tracking a Supreme Court Justice,” while coronavirus relief remains uncertain.
A panel discussion about the coronavirus pandemic, which included Josephine Giordanoa, a CPA based in Arizona, Tom Hood, a CPA in Maryland, and Ted Lichtenberger, co-founder of the Flower Company, a wholesale cannabis membership club that compares itself to Costco, dove deeper into how COVID-19 changed the cannabis industry.
“Overall, the supply chain has been pretty strong in resisting the ups and downs of COVID,” Lichtenberger said.
Giordanoa noted that many current hurdles, including slow investment, are issues that already existed for the cannabis industry — the pandemic just exacerbated things.
“Once COVID hit, they’ve been a little bit shy in providing capital that’s needed, although we’re starting to see that starting to overturn,” she said.
Giordanoa also highlighted that while nearly every cannabis business was declared “essential,” COVID-19 still brought “operational changes,” like the need to physically distance.
“Social distancing is an issue. Having the customers come in and having to maintain a certain number of customers within the dispensary itself just cuts back on the amount of people that could gravitate toward different products within the dispensary,” she said.
Some cannabis business owners have had to furlough and lay off employees, while others are succumbing to the difficult market presented by the synergistic effects of federal prohibition, banking issues, and the pandemic. Still, many of the owners that Giordanoa said she’s spoken to have said that they’re doing everything they can to avoid layoffs.
“I think by the time we weed out the non-performers, we’re going to be in a mature industry that’s really going to be able to sustain itself beyond this point of the pandemic,” Giordanoa said.
A panel discussion on hemp and CBD in food brought together Amanda Conley and David Bush, both attorneys, and Joyce Cenali, a partner at Big Rocks Partners investment firm.
“We have a federal regulatory scheme that has been now put into place for federally-regulated hemp production in the United States. But the federal government would rather not do the regulating itself. It doesn’t have the resources. It doesn’t have the interest,” said Bush, a lawyer with Hoban Law Group, adding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interim final rule on hemp production has created controversy. (Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of the rule.)
“What it has done is it creates a system of guidelines, regulatory guidelines, which if states wish to enforce, regulate, administer the federal program, they can do so subject to guidelines,” Bush said. “It is a very controversial program. States are pushing back. They don’t like some of the federal regulations. So that is subject to some modification in the future.”
Conley gave an overview of the Food and Drug Administration’s approach to CBD, which is, essentially: now that the FDA has approved GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, which contains CBD extracted from cannabis, CBD can’t be added to food or treated like a dietary supplement. (Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of the FDA’s current and forthcoming CBD regulations.)
“We’re now at a really interesting crossroads where we’re going to see: how is the FDA going to deal with this? How are they going to deal with this huge CBD market? But then, also, this really clear guidance to them that says, ‘you can’t sell this product as anything but a drug once it’s been approved,’” Conley said.
Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter is scheduled to speak when the event continues Tuesday.
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