The 10 richest men in the world have a lot of opinions on weed in America
Each year, Forbes’ annual Richest People in the World list never comes as much of a surprise — Bloomberg, Buffett, Gates — they’ve all been there before. But this is a planet transformed, and to meet the demand of consumers that pay their egregious salaries, those billionaires have to adapt. And no more controversial industry has toppled expectations in the past few years than pot. So it’s worth questioning: how are these dudes handling an unignorable product nipping at their golden heels?
(Updated to reflect Forbes' newly released 2017 list — same players, different positions.)
1. Bill Gates
Age: 65 // Worth: $86 billion
As one of the filthiest, richest men in the world (leading the list 17 out of the past 22 years), Bill Gates holds no reservations in publicly supporting legalized cannabis, even telling the media that he proudly voted ‘yes’ on Washington’s I-502 measure — the very one that put recreational weed in the hands of adults in his home state. Why? Because drug traffickers “are going to make a lot less money, and some of the perverse things about the illegal drug trade will be avoided,” he’s said. But Gates is also smart, and sees the potential for astronomical growth. His company, Microsoft, recently partnered with KIND Financial, a startup software company that specializes in cannabis tracking and compliance.
2. Warren Buffett
Age: 85 // Worth: $75.6 billion
We’re not entirely sure the man has smoked weed himself, but his companies are jumping all over the boom. Cubic Designs Incorporated, an offshoot of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is a company that builds layers inside of warehouses to maximize floor space. In one marketing push, the company sent out thousands of fliers to Colorado and Washington grows in an effort to get in where the gettin’s good. That probably didn’t happen without his knowledge.
3. Jeff Bezos
Age: 53 // Worth: $72.8 billion
In 2013, Amazon founder and multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post, an outlet NORML’s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre once called “barely more than a government organ; a ‘rip-n-read’ anti-pot propaganda machine.” Since, the paper announced it’s reviewing company drug policy in response to legalization in the state.
A Fortune article published in June of last year also states that Bezos’ personal position on marijuana is unclear, however he tends to lean libertarian in most cases and is one business that would profit exponentially if national legalization were a thing with Amazon drones able to deliver an 1/8 right to someone’s doorstep.
4. Amancio Ortega
Age: 80 // Worth: $71.3 billion
The notoriously quiet co-founder of Zara, a Spanish clothing and accessories brand, has no known paper trail of his support or disdain of cannabis. He is, however, from and based out of one of the more liberally focused countries with regards to cannabis. Per the Canna Law Blog, the city of Barcelona has more than 200 cannabis clubs around the city. Spain’s rules about it are pretty lax as well, deeming it perfectly legal to consume so long as you’re not selling it. A best guess is that Ortega is either indifferent to the plant, or supports it. Birds of a feather, and all of that.
5. Mark Zuckerberg
Age: 32 // Worth: $56 billion
Former Facebook employee Katherine Losse is very clear in her book, “The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network” about Zuckerberg’s views on drugs. “I shuddered to think what he would have thought of the nights in Brazil in 2005 when our Hopkins student group danced samba until morning, fueled by caipirinhas and the local beer,” she wrote. “Some of us even did lines of coke in the bathroom. Mark would have passed out on sight. He hated drugs. I was told that he’d go pale at just the thought of them. At Facebook, we all knew never to even mention the word drugs near him.”
His company policies don’t reflect that of an accepting environment either, often pulling down business pages for dispensaries and maintaining an outright refusal to sell ads for companies in the industry. He has stated, however, that he’s against U.S. policies that jail people for something as simple as smoking weed.
6. Carlos Slim Helu
Age: 77 // Worth: $54.5 billion
Carlos Slim is Mexico’s wealthiest man by a mile, with interests in education, healthcare, industrial manufacturing, transportation, real estate, technology … the list goes on. But it’s complete conjecture to say whether or not he would approve of a legalized system in Mexico.
As a patriot, he loves his country, saying that if “society were ever to tell me to get out of business, I would do it.” But they wouldn’t, Mexico loves him, many hoping he’ll be the leader of the country one day — something Slim has said he wants no part of.
Our guess? A legalized system in Mexico would damage the cartels, a destructive force the country can’t seem to neutralize. It would be big money, too, something the ruthless businessman would likely have no problem jumping right into.
7. Larry Ellison
Age: 72 // Worth: $52.2.6 billion
It’s unknown whether or not the Oracle founder and current CTO dabbles in anything himself (billionaires tend to be secretive of their personal affairs), but he did make a generous donation of $200 million to the University of Southern California, which launched the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine. It’s a research facility specializing in prevention and treatment of cancer.
With California’s newly legalized recreational system and historically liberal approach to pot, it’s at least feasible the institute has discussed the probability of cannabis and its rumored effect on cancer cells. The best guess is that anything helping cancer patients is fine with Ellison.
T8. David & Charles Koch
Age: 76,81 // Worth: $48.3 billion
After being involved in a heated legal battle defending himself against 97 felonies, Charles Koch has been outspoken about reform in the system. Since, he’s donated millions to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to give defendants a better chance of fair representation against a brutal and unfair system. While his views on weed outside of justice reform are unclear, his brother David has been more outspoken about it.
In Jared Carlson’s book, “Billionaire Breakdown: A Look at the Wealthiest People in the World,” Koch states, “I have friends who smoke pot. ... It’s ridiculous to treat them as criminals.” The two also financially back Generation Opportunity, an organization that fights for the release of non-violent drug offenders — one in particular who was sentenced to spend 55 years of his life behind bars for selling a little bit of weed.
9. Michael Bloomberg
Age: 75 // Worth: $47.5 billion
When asked whether or not he ever smoked weed when he was younger, Bloomberg excitedly replied: “You bet I did. And I enjoyed it!” Later, he regretted making the comment, calling it “the truth,” but that he wished he wasn’t quoted on it.
He’s since called Colorado’s legalization efforts, “one of the stupider things that’s happening across our country,” and maintains that medical uses for cannabis are bullshit. “Yeah, right, medical, come on,” he’s said. “There’s no medical. This is one of the great hoaxes of all times.”