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Environment

This Is Why Richard Branson Wants New Zealand Farms to Grow Weed

In 10 years marijuana will be as common as red wine, according to billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson. 

The investor, who successfully grew a mail-order business for selling records in the 1970s to the multi-billion-dollar corporation Virgin Records, and has since branched out into air travel among other things, knows a good investment when he sees one. And this one is good for the planet. 

At a gala event in Auckland, New Zealand, Brandon told attendees he believes the region’s farmers should stop raising cows and switch to the forbidden fruit— cannabis. 

Read More: 9 Ways Veganism Is Helping the Planet

“You should legalize it, grow it, tax it, and regulate it,” he said in an interview with NewsHub, backstage at the gala.  

“I think that would be wonderful because the amount of dairy farmers New Zealand has is damaging its rivers. If you could put some of that land over to growing cannabis it would be just as profitable, if not more profitable for [farmers],” Branson said. 

Including beef and dairy cows, New Zealand raised 10 million cattle throughout its rolling grassy hills in 2016. Branson is right, this has a big impact on the country’s rivers. Nitrogen in manure from raising cattle washes downstream into rivers causing eutrophication — a process which essentially suffocates air for living plants and animals in freshwater. 

Read More: Uruguay Made Marijuana Legalization, One Year Later

Raising cows impacts water supplies in other significant ways — raising cows requires a massive amount of water — it takes 15,500 liters to  produce 1 kilogram of beef. In comparison, it takes just 180 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of tomatoes.

Beyond that, raising livestock saps of huge amounts of land and feed resources. Farming creates up to 20% of global carbon emissions, most of which come from livestock. Cows produce an even greater proportion of methane, a gas that is more heat-trapping than carbon.

While Branson’s own mother country, the United Kingdom, has not yet legalized cannabis farming and sales, 15 other countries, including Bangladesh, Uruguay, and New Zealand neighbor Australia allow it. Roughly, 30 states in the US decriminalized possession, and allow medical use.

Branson cited backfired results of the “War on Drugs” saying the need to help people is greater and a better solution to criminalizing drugs like cannabis. 

Read More: Americans Are Eating 20% Less Beef in Huge Win For Earth

“We've done a lot of studies on the war on drugs and it's been an abject failure, and what is absolutely clear to us is that drugs should be decriminalised and people who have drug problems should be helped," he said. 

Farmers in New Zealand are intrigued. But they didn’t quite see cannabis as the new Sauvignon Blanc in the next decade. 

"Farmers welcome any opportunity to add another string to their bow, and would look at that option only if it was legal and profitable to do so... But that is a long way down the track," said William Rolleston, president of Federated Farmers, an advocacy organization for farmers in New Zealand.