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2019 is the year the US legalizes cannabis, CEO of pot firm Acreage says

The United States will legalize marijuana at a federal level in 2019, according to the chief executive of a leading company in the industry.

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Kevin Murphy, of U.S.-based cannabis firm Acreage Holdings, said Thursday he believes that a key bill aimed at recognizing legalization of cannabis will be passed this year.

The STATES Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation proposed by Senators Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren, would allow businesses like Murphy’s to operate legitimately, giving them access to bank accounts and letting them list on U.S. stock exchanges.

“I believe 2019 is going to be the year” of weed legalization in the U.S., Murphy told CNBC’s Karen Tso at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “I believe that it’s going to take place through the STATES Act.”

“From our vantage point its very straightforward and we couldn’t be more pleased to be leading as the largest player in the United States,” he added.

Murphy’s firm is listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange but headquartered in the U.S. The pot industry was surrounded by heightened speculative interest from investors last year, with the share prices of a number of firms in the space — Tilray being the most notable — skyrocketing.

A number of notable political figures have joined Acreage’s board, including former House Speaker John Boehner and ex-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Murphy said that Canada’s legalization of recreational weed last year had an “extraordinary impact” on the industry. The country has become the world’s largest market for legalized marijuana.

“Canada is leading not only in the compassion and care side of it, they’re also leading in the capital markets aspect of the business,” he said.

He said the U.S., by contrast, was “woefully behind” its northern neighbor on the legalization front.

“The United States has been a leader in so many different things, but today sadly the U.S. is so woefully behind in their compassion and care with cannabis.”

Murphy added that the U.S. is, in fact, the world leader in “overdoses of opiates.” The country has been grappling with a public health crisis, with 130 Americans dying everyday after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

An ad Acreage wanted to run on medical marijuana during the Super Bowl was rejected by CBS earlier this week. The American broadcaster turned down the 30-second commercial, which shines a light on the U.S. opioid crisis and promotes medical cannabis.

“We were very disappointed that the ad … was not accepted by CBS,” Murphy said. “We don’t begrudge CBS, we understand that it remains federally illegal in the United States.”