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Super Bowl 2019 marijuana ad shouldn't have been rejected by CBS: Acreage CEO

Zack Guzman
Senior Writer

When CBS informed Acreage Holdings CEO Kevin Murphy that his marijuana ad wasn’t going to air during Super Bowl 53, he was disappointed but not entirely surprised.

“It was really less of an ad and more of a PSA,” he said on Yahoo Finance’s live show YFi PM. “It didn’t highlight any of our stores or any of our product, but really what it highlighted was a need for compassionate care with cannabis.”

The 30-second spot that was obtained by Yahoo Finance tells the story of how Amy Bourlon-Hilterbran and her son Austin, who suffers from seizures caused by Dravet Syndrome, found relief by turning to cannabis. CBS informed the company last week that it wouldn’t be airing the ad, citing a network policy that it doesn’t accept cannabis advertising.

“I think it was a very crisp, curt response,” Murphy said, recalling how he was informed, “‘We will not be sharing medical marijuana ads on the Super Bowl this year.’ But we don’t begrudge CBS. We understand it’s still a federal [Schedule 1] drug.”

Despite the decision, Murphy said the news of the ad’s rejection has sparked healthy debate and an outpouring of support from others who agree that access to cannabis should be available for Americans as a treatment option. Even Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long weighed in on Twitter, writing “Keep pumping the booze ads, guys. You’re doing great!”

That reaction, from such a prominent name in the the league, struck a cord with Murphy when he was dealing with the rejection from CBS.

“Here’s a gentleman that still plays in the NFL … and [he] says maybe it’s time and keep pumping the booze ads, right?,” Murphy said. “You’re going to see a lot of attractive men and women drinking beers during the Super Bowl, why not, frankly, cannabis?”

While marijuana is legal in the home states of both Super Bowl teams in Massachusetts and California, only 10 states currently allow legal recreational marijuana use. Medicinal cannabis use is permitted in 33 states, but Murphy is hopeful that legislation could legalize marijuana at a federal level as soon as 2019.

A total of 10 states allow for recreational marijuana, while 33 states allow for medicinal use in the United States. At the federal level, marijuana is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug.

Part of his optimism is driven by consideration for the STATES Act, or “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States” Act, the bipartisan bill backed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner that would help U.S.-based cannabis companies like Acreage run banking operations legally. It would finally allow cannabis companies to run accounts at federally regulated banks and list on U.S. stock exchanges without legal concerns if passed.

Cannabis advocates have also cheered the legalization of hemp at a federal level which was a byproduct of the passing of the latest farm bill. That victory has given the prospect of legalizing marijuana a new boost, and supported more cannabis research, Murphy said.

“Alcohol is really looking for the social aspect of it, pharma is looking for the medical aspect of it, but then you have a whole other category in the wellness component,” Murphy said, pointing to the benefits of CBD. “So it’s really the cross section of all of these opportunities that we believe, given that we are a multiple billion operation today, we believe that we can grow and compete with big alcohol and compete with big Pharma, we just need a fair playing field.”

Or a Super Bowl ad.

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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