Sir Richard Branson paid a visit to a Denver drug rehabilitation facility while in town for a press conference regarding Virgin American flight availability from Denver International Airport. The billionaire is a long-time advocate of drug policy reform. He was given a private tour of a Denver substance abuse treatment facility which is partially funded by legalized marijuana tax dollars.
The name of the facility toured by Branson was not named, but the initial contact for the tour came from Branson’s team. Director of marijuana coordination, Andrew Freedman says, “They reached out to us. They were in town for the launch and reached out to see where some of the marijuana money was going,” says The Cannabist.
Branson met with state officials, healthcare professionals and marijuana industry members following the tour of the treatment facility.
Public information officer, Robert Thompson said, “There was never a blanket statement of why he was there, but we do know that Mr. Branson is interested in drug reform policy that prioritizes treatment over criminal penalties. He wanted to see how this treatment program funded by marijuana dollars was helping people recover rather than having them sent to jail.”
Branson spoke at the International Crisis Group and Foreign Affairs engagement in October. He said, “The research that we’ve done has indicated that if you talk about treating drugs as a health problem, not a criminal problem, would you want your brothers and sisters or your children to go to prison or would you want them to be helped? Overwhelmingly, you’ll get 95 percent of the public will say we want to treat it as a health problem, not a criminal problem. And that’s the first major step to be won. And one I would suggest the politicians push. And that should be all drugs, not just marijuana. Treat all drugs as a health problem, not a criminal problem.”
Attorney Brian Vicente, a co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign in Colorado, said, “Branson has been a big supporter for drug policy reform for a decade-plus. He’s on the board of the Drug Policy Alliance. He speaks at conferences. He’s been using his position as a prominent businessman to champion the cause of reform — drugs generally but marijuana specifically.”
The visit suggests that Sir Richard Branson may be quietly researching the marijuana industry as he may have interest in getting into it.