The freewheeling British entrepreneur and Forbes-list billionaire has spent the last several years evangelizing the benefits of cannabis legalization.
“Why not?” the Virgin Group founder asked a crowd of more than a thousand people last year during the second annual New West Summit conference, “The Future of Cannabis, Now,” in San Francisco.
Overall, the cannabis industry is now worth US $7.2 billion and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17%, according to New Frontier, a data-analysis group focusing on the cannabis industry. The industry will be worth US $24 billion and will create more than 300,000 jobs by 2020, asserts New Frontier.
Speaking to New Zealand’s Newshub, Mr Branson said that he sees a significant business opportunity for the country’s dairy farmers in marijuana. He suggested cannabis could replace New Zealand’s reliance on cows if the plant were legal.
“I think that would be wonderful because obviously the amount of dairy cows that New Zealand has is damaging the rivers,” he added. “If you could put some of that land over into growing cannabis would be just as profitable for them, if not more profitable.”
During a speech in Barbados earlier this year, Barbados Today quoted Branson as saying that the global fight against cannabis has been an abject failure for the last 60 years. He urged Barbadian authorities to treat the issue as a health rather than a criminal matter. He asserted that there had been no increase in the use of cannabis in countries where the drug has been legalised.
In 2015, Jamaica took the first step towards legalization by decriminalizing cannabis (or “ganja” in Jamaica) for personal use. The new law allows people to grow up to five plants at home and transport up to fifty-six grams at a time. Exports are prohibited.
The new law made medical marijuana legal for “therapeutic” purposes. Jamaicans hope the term therapeutic is flexible enough so that tourists can legally consume recreational cannabis in the future. Today, there are anecdotal reports of tourists enjoying ganja in Jamaica without interference from the local police.
The global medical cannabis market is expected to reach a value of US $55.8 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc.