Richard Branson New Zealand
Richard Branson. Photo: Mind Your Guest

Richard Branson. Photo: Mind Your Guest

Billionaire Richard Branson, who amassed his riches through his Virgin Group, recently declared in an interview with the broadcaster, Newshub, that New Zealand should legalise cannabis and ditch dairy farming for weed. He was in Auckland for a charity fundraiser attended by New Zealand’s former prime minister, John Key, and also met with the current prime minister, Bill English, during his visit; it cost NZD1,000 (£560) to join him for din-dins.

The interview took place backstage. Branson predicted that within 10 years, using cannabis will be as acceptable as drinking wine. The growing, possession and use of the drug is currently illegal in the country.

How things would be better

Branson sounded off on the “abject failure” of the drug war, evidenced by “a lot of studies,” adding that it would be wiser to legalise cannabis and provide assistance to people with drug problems: “You should legalise it, grow it, tax it, regulate it.” This would be better economically both for the farmers who grow it and the government which taxes it. The Cannabis Party of New Zealand claims that £224 million a year would be saved. If only governments were to legalise cannabis, Branson would be prepared to sell it at Virgin stores, but not tobacco because it is “too dangerous.”

Dirty dairying

Dairy farming is New Zealand’s leading agricultural industry, requiring over five million cows and around 6,950 square miles of land. It damages the environment, leading to its being referred to as “dirty dairying.” This is through all that poo and manure polluting water supplies and the vast amount of water cows consume, as confirmed by New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Agency, and emissions of methane, a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (sadly, for those who write of it, this comes much more from belching than farting). The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation stated that 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gases is the product of livestock farming, which the meat industry believed to be too high and environmentalists, too low.

But wouldn’t it be better to use hydroponics?

Hydroponics is best for cannabis that gets smoked, while the outdoor variety could be used for hemp and oil. But growing outdoors requires no electricity, so it’s cheaper, and people would be attracted to a product that’s all-natural, as they are with food.

Let’s listen to this guy

Richard Branson’s empire began as a mail order enterprise selling records in the 1970s but now encompasses an airline and all sorts; his opinion of what is a good investment should be heeded. He’s renowned for his daring and innovative take on business and has previously condemned the war on drugs, which has “ravaged” the world for decades, leading to violence, overcrowded prisons and corruption. He smokes joints with his adult sons and recommends that others do it as a family.

How do farmers feel?

William Rolleston, president of Federated Farmers, was asked his opinion by Newshub, to which he replied, “Farmers welcome any opportunity to add another string to their bow,” and would consider cannabis growing if only it was legal, however, “That is a long way down the track.” None of New Zealand’s major political parties currently wishes to legalise cannabis.

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