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Richard Branson On Marijuana Legalization And Why Virgin Will Never Build Prisons

Expressing his thoughts on the problems with the prison system, the billionaire jokes: "We might leave the doors unlocked! With a few exceptions."

[Image: Richard Branson via Prometheus73 / Shutterstock]

Ask a panel of technologists and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley about their thoughts on the prison system and drugs, and you'll get some pretty unique answers. At a recent Virgin-sponsored debate about whether entrepreneurs have lost the will to innovate, the panelists veered off into their thoughts on the prison-industrial complex.

Leila Janah, the founder and CEO of Samasource, suggested a crowdfunding scheme for "social innovators" to build better prison models. "Imagine if we had charter prisons like charter schools," she said. "The funding model in the public sector completely prevents innovation from happening."

Branson, meanwhile, griped about the bail system, where wealthy people with bail money can get out of jail more easily. When panelist Guy Kawasaki asked if he would ever start a Virgin prison system, Branson joked: "We might leave the doors unlocked! With a few exceptions."

The Virgin billionaire also expressed his enthusiasm for marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington saying that he thinks it's "brilliant." He went on: "America’s got more prisoners than China, and most of those people are in there for drug-related problems. Drugs should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal problem."

Branson has championed marijuana a number of times in the past. He is a longtime advocate for legalization, has admitted to smoking with his son, and noted in an interview with High Times that drug testing is most likely not required for any Virgin position (with the exception of pilots and astronauts).