The official opening of Barcelona's Cannabis Museum yesterday proved to be the perfect opportunity for experts to renew calls for the legalisation of the drug, with Richard Branson saying that Spain could solve its deficit problem by legalising cannabis alone.
The multi-millionaire founder of the Virgin emporium is also a member of a global commission on drugs policy which includes five ex-presidents and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, and which concluded last year that the war on drugs had failed and called for experiments in decriminalisation.
Branson said that if Spain were to legalise cannabis use and collect taxes on its consumption, marijuana could go a long way towards solving its current economic problems: "it would help get the country back on its feet", he said.
Branson was in Barcelona to receive an award from the promotors of the new Cannabis Museum - the biggest in the world at 900 square metres - in recognition of the work the commission has done since 2004 to promote the acceptance of the plant in all its forms and the reintroduction of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The British multimillionaire took the opportunity to praise the initiative taken by the village of Rasquera (Tarragona), whose inhabitants voted for an "anticrisis plan" involving renting out land to a Barcelona-based cannabis growers' society.
"It seems like a great idea to me", said Branson, who also expressed his regret over what he considered to be Amsterdam's "backward step" and an "error" in changing Dutch law so that visitors to the country can no longer buy cannabis in the country's coffee shops.
The mayor of Rasquera, Bernat Pellisa, was also present at the Museum's and he underlined the fact that his plan to help the village out of recession was, in fact, based on a report by the global commission that Branson is a member of. "This ceremony is a loudspeaker for an opportunity to combat the economic crisis that no-one stops talking about", said the mayor.
The museum, which opens to the public on Friday, will exhibit paintings, photos and drawings illustrating the use of cannabis throughout history, as well as some antique objects, like tools and instruments used to transform the hemp plant into rope, paper and fabric.