imagesRichard Branson filled a room – via Skype – of cannabis supporters recently, at the second annual New West Summit Conference, and told the attendees “ The future of cannabis, now”. Branson has spent the last five years serving on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, where he along with United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan and 15 past world leaders have been hashing out the role of marijuana in our pharmacological futures.

Mr. Branson wholeheartedly supports industry growth as well as the decriminalization of cannabis.

“That’s the only way of sorting out the problems that come with drugs by not regulating and leaving it up to the underworld to supply drugs,” he said. “Our commission has worked really quite hard on that. We’ve had some successes and some massive failures, we’re going to keep going until we get governments to see otherwise.”

It probably doesn’t hurt that the billionaire tech entrepreneur views Cannabis as a rapidly growing industry with significant amounts of money to be made – even if he can’t invest due to his commission seat.

The New West Summit Conference, held in San Francisco this past week, made for the perfect backdrop to speak directly to the growth of the marijuana industry. With California being the most populated state in the US and having the world’s six largest economy with a gross domestic product of about $2.5 trillion, cannabis is poised to be big business. Though only four states– Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – have legalized cannabis for recreational use, California is one of 25 states that allows its use for medical purposes. Considering all geographical regions, the marijuana industry is growing at 29% annually according to data-analysis group, New Frontier. New Frontier projects the industry could be worth greater than $20.5 billion by 2020.

While the average age of marijuana users is between 18 and 25 years old, the majority of business and cannabis entrepreneurs interested in the legalization of marijuana is 45 to 60 – just proving that you don’t necessarily need to toke to appreciate the multitude of money making opportunities in the industry. The stigma that once surrounded the use of marijuana has decreased dramatically, as the ability to make money from its legalization is increasing exponentially.

“Regardless of what you might hear people say, almost every venture capitalist is looking into this,” said Eric Eslao former Apple executive who worked on worldwide marketing and original video content for Apple Music and Beats “How can you not?”

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