Sir Richard Branson says New Zealand farmers should ditch cows for cannabis

In a recent interview with Newshub, a New Zealand news service, billionaire Sir Richard Branson advocated for a shift in the country’s farming industry: ditch dairy cows for cannabis.

“I think that would be wonderful because obviously the amount of dairy cows that New Zealand has is damaging the rivers,” Branson said in the interview. “If you could put some of that land over into growing cannabis would be just as profitable for them, if not more profitable. [...] You should legalise it, grow it, tax it, regulate it."

There could be other environmental benefits: a cow produces almost as much global warming gases per year as the average car, and New Zealand has many more dairy cows (6.4 million) to cut down on than cars (3.3 million).

Branson also called out the failure of the war on drugs: "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.”

Branson believes that, in ten years, marijuana will be as prevalent and accepted as wine. This might happen slower in New Zealand, where even medical marijuana is currently illegal, than in countries such as the United States, where there are various regions that have legalized medical and even recreational marijuana.

The president of New Zealand’s Federated Farmers, William Rolleston, was interested in swapping cows for cannabis, but said that farmers “would look at that option only if it was legal and profitable to do so.” Legalizing medical marijuana in New Zealand would be a big first step down that road.

For more info on the medical benefits of cannabis, check out our PBS NewsHour series on the subject: