Speaking to New Zealand broadcaster Newshub during a recent trip to the country, Mr Branson said that he sees a significant business opportunity for the country’s dairy farmers in marijuana.
"You should legalise it, grow it, tax it, regulate it," he said.
"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.”
According to the website of the country’s police department, cannabis is one of the most widely available illicit drugs in New Zealand.
Police say that they are committed to reducing the demand for it and disrupting the supply chain, and that penalties associated with it range from a $NZ500 fine for possession to a 14-year jail term for its supply or manufacture.
But Sir Richard is known for his innovative and adventurous approach to business and his support for budding entrepreneurs. And he has also in the past spoken out vocally against the war on drugs.
“Communities around the world have been ravaged by decades of a brutal, repressive and completely ineffective war on drugs,” the Virgin founder wrote in a blog post last March.
“The consequences of these strategies include soaring violence, overcrowded prisons, and pervasive corruption. Presented as an investment in a better future, the war on drugs has been an epic, costly failure,” he said, adding that “we need a new course of action.”
He is a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of international politicians and experts whose aim it is to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.
Cannabis around the world
Cannabis around the world
Farmers destroy cannabis plantations under Moroccan police supervision in the northern Moroccan Larache region, pictured here in 2006
Growing business: Cannabis on sale at River Rock Wellness
Oaksterdam in Oakland, California, is the world's only university dedicated to the study and cultivation of cannabis
Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images
A cannabis smoker marks the start of the new law by the Space Needle in Seattle
Cannabis growing wild in China, where it has been used to treat conditions such as gout and malaria
Uruguay has voted to make the country the first to legalize marijuana
A groundswell of support from the public led to full legalisation in Colorado
A man smokes licenced medicinal marijuana prior to participating in the annual Hemp Parade, or 'Hanfparade', in support of the legalization of marijuana in Germany on August 7, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The consumption of cannabis in Germany is legal, though all other aspects, including growing, importing or selling it, are not. However, since the introduction of a new law in 2009, the sale and possession of marijuana for licenced medicinal use is legal.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The UK latest figures show 2.3 million people used cannabis in the last year
Tourists visiting Amsterdam will not be banned from using the city’s famous cannabis cafes
These 25 cannabis plants, seized in Merseyside police, could have generated a turnover of £40,000 a year
12/13 San Francisco
April 20, 2012: People smoke marijuana joints at 4:20 p.m. as thousands of marijuana advocates gathered at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. The event was held on April 20, a date corresponding with a numerical 4/20 code widely known within the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all things marijuana.
A cannabis users' association will pay the town of Rasquera more than €600,000 a year for the lease of the land
In a separate blog post in April, commenting on the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on drug policy, Sir Richard vowed to redouble efforts to “support societies around the world to positively recalibrate drug policy”.
During his trip to New Zealand, Sir Richard also met Prime Minister Bill English and the country’s former Prime Minister John Key, according to his blog.Reuse content