Cnet reports on the New West Summit conference, "The Future of Cannabis, Now" in downtown San Francisco.
Richard Branson of Virgin fame throws his billionaire weight behind cannabis advocacy and drug legalization.
Branson spoke via Skype, and told a crowd of 1,000 people he has spent a lot of time during the last past five years serving on the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Branson says that it is not only important to decriminalize drugs, but also to legalize drugs worldwide.
His reasoning is that the only way to sort out the drug problem, is to regulate it instead of leaving it to the underworld to supply drugs. He said the commission he is part of has worked quite hard to achieve this, and has had some major failures and some successes. They will keep going at it until governments start to see their point.
A selection of our products
Nine states about to vote
Nine states in the US are about to vote on the legalization of marijuana on Election Day. The conference focused on the billion-dollar cannabis industry, business and media market in its budding stage. Branson’s voice underlines just how big the industry is becoming.
The buzz was also big as the conference occupied the main space in the hotel and featured dozens of information booths and 30 panel discussions on cannabis related topics.
California is also about to vote, and the question of how big the market could turn out to be in this most densely populated state was discussed. It is the sixth-largest economy in the world with a gross domestic product of about $2.5 trillion.
Cannabis the fastest growing industry
According to New Frontier, a data-analysis group focusing on marijuana, the cannabis industry is currently worth $7.2 billion and is growing at a rate of 29 percent annually. It will be worth at least $20.5 billion by 2020. This makes it one of the fastest growing industries in the US.
According to PitchBook, a research firm specializing in venture capital, investors invested $360 million into marijuana-focused startups last year, and $137 million this year. Four years ago, as little as $7 million were invested into cannabis companies.
The cannabis concentrates category is growing at 300-400%, outgrowing the flower category and edibles, and there appears to be no slowing down.
2016 an important year for the cannabis advocacy
Keith McCarty, CEO of Eaze spoke on a panel "Tech Players Who Moved Into Cannabis". He described the inflection point the market is at, and said that 2016 might be the most important year for the cannabis industry so far. He said the stigma of using marijuana has been diminished. Businesses are no longer ashamed to support the industry because there's just too much opportunity involved.
Eric Eslao, creator of Défoncé Chocolatier, a high-end cannabis-laced chocolate bar, said 80 percent of his investors are in the tech industry. No matter what people say, almost every venture capitalist is looking into this market.
Branson concluded that the Cannabis industry has enormous potential with the ability to do a lot of good.