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Dr. Bronner's Head Arrested in White House Hemp Civil Disobedience Action

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #738)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

protest cage with "Mr. President, Let U.S. Farmers Grow Hemp" sign
David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, which imports more than 20 tons of hemp oil each year from Canadian farmers, was arrested by members of the DC Metropolitan Police Department after committing an act of civil disobedience within sight of the White House early Monday morning. Bronner and fellow hemp activists pulled up to 16th and H Streets NW, unloaded a jail cell-like structure (to prevent police from immediately interfering), which Bronner locked himself into with 12 hemp plants. He then proceeded to harvest the plants and press hemp oil from them. (Bronner was planning to spread the oil on slices of bread and share it with onlookers, but that was unconfirmed at press time.) [Ed: Read our accompanying interview with David Bronner here, and watch video footage here.]

Bronner said he was waging a "beer bet" with President Obama that the hemp plants are not marijuana and have no drug value. The plants were grown from Canadian hemp seed, and under Canadian regulations, hemp can have no more than 0.3% THC, meaning the plants have no use as a medicinal or recreational drug.

"The industrial hemp plants I am harvesting and processing into oil cannot produce a high of any kind, but according to the Obama administration I'm in possession of approximately 10 pounds of marijuana," said Bronner. "President Obama's US Attorney who handles drug cases in Washington, DC will not be able to prove my hemp has any more drug value than a poppy seed bagel.  The Obama position on hemp is not science-based or good for the US economy. We've lobbied and campaigned for over a decade and feel abandoned by our president, who as an Illinois state legislator voted twice for hemp cultivation."

Activists at Vote Hemp, with which Bronner is affiliated, held meetings with the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2010 to seek a change in hemp policy, but that effort went nowhere. They then took advantage of the White House's public online petition program to ask it to revise US drug policies to allow for domestic hemp production -- it took a federal court order several years ago to force the DEA to allow hemp products to be imported -- but after a seven month delay, all they got was a slap in the face.

That slap came in the form of a one-paragraph response from ONDCP head Gil Kerlikowske entitled "What We Have to Say About Marijuana and Hemp Production."

David Bronner at the White House, with media and supporters
"America's farmers deserve our Nation's help and support to ensure rural America's prosperity and vitality," Kerlikowske wrote. "Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant. While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety."

"I expected more from President Obama," Bronner said. "The president can simply direct the Department of Justice to respect industrial hemp grown pursuant to existing state hemp programs, such as North Dakota's. Everyone is sick and tired of America's bankrupt policy on hemp that forces our company to send well over a hundred thousand dollars every year to Canadian farmers. I had hoped that President Obama would not succumb to drug warriors' hysteria regarding hemp. I really don't know what else to do to get our 'Chief Law Enforcement Officer' to take a rational science-based approach to hemp policy in this country."

If the administration won't act, perhaps Congress will. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) cosponsored an amendment to the Agriculture Department reauthorization bill. That amendment clarifies that hemp is an "agricultural crop" and should not be considered the same as marijuana.

While Bronner and other hemp activists support that effort, they argue that it's not the law but its deliberate misreading that is at the root of the problem.

"Senator Wyden's effort is truly commendable, but in my view the existing prohibition of hemp farming stems less from current law than the deliberate misinterpretation of existing law by regressive drug warriors entrenched in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and other high level members of the Obama Administration," Bronner said.

Now, with civil disobedience within eyeshot of the White House, the hempsters are hoping to up the pressure on the White House to act.

[Disclosure: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a financial supporter of this newsletter.]

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


William Aiken (not verified)

If we have more activists like Bronner willing to draw attention to this administration's arrogant and hypocritical handling of drug policy issues, they might think twice before issuing stupid statements or destructive actions like the raid on Oaksterdam


While I was glad to see AG Eric Holder asked about his disregard for President's Obama's memo that there would be no raids on the dispensaries that follow state laws. It was disheartening to see the congressman questioning Holder further probe him about his lies. I realize the congressman has a limited amount of time to question the AG. That's where the media should pick up the ball. The mainstream media didn't even report on the congressman's questions regarding raiding of dispensaries. It would be refreshing when the AG blows off questions with outright lies to have the Washington press core force the issue. Not on Obama's watch. They are truly void of asking tough questions of this president and his staff. 

Mon, 06/11/2012 - 5:09pm Permalink
War Vet (not verified)

America has been at war with militant Islam since 2001 and yet we are not allowed to grow hemp for the war, though it was done (precedents) for WWII and previous wars.  Lack of hemp resources have no doubt hurt our military and made the war more expensive, which is treason and sabotage, so logic dictates that Obama, Bush, Gil and the DEA are all Muslim Terrorists or at least Muslim Terrorist sympathizers -which explains why we cannot grow hemp for victory . . . We weren't allowed to grow hemp for Vietnam, which would make LBJ, Nixon, the DEA and many others NVA and Viet-Cong sympathizers . . . lack of Hemp for our military during the Cold War would have made our politicians and Law Enforcement communist and Soviet sympathizers since precedents were made with WWII and hemp.

Mon, 06/11/2012 - 5:50pm Permalink
vv (not verified)

That's weird they only arrested the top half of him. Usually they want the whole body. 

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 12:05am Permalink
vv (not verified)

That's weird they only arrested the top half of him. Usually they want the whole body. 

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 12:07am Permalink
Mountainlover (not verified)

Yay! This is why I buy some DR.Bronners soaps often, he actually believes in change. Also to hear that Obama voted for hemp as a state lawmaker is news to me.

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 12:54am Permalink
Paul Pot (not verified)


Dr. Bronner is more deserving of a Noble peace prize than the President. 
Ending the drug war would go a long way to ending all war. 
The war against Islamic extremists and others is all really the drug war. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are predominantly funded by cannabis and opium production. And the policing of the drug war motivated them to war to start with. They had been growing cannabis and opium for centuries relying on it as a normal commodity of trade then the Americans came along and stole it from them with extreme prejudice and to this day the helicopters fly over the whole world destroying cash crops and leaving impoverished and deeply resentful people everywhere. This is why so many hate America, it is also why so many poor consider getting into the US as their last hope. 
End the drug war and you solve most of the world conflicts and terrorism, poverty, immigration and human trafficking and our economic woes as well. 
The drug war is the most debauched mess imaginable. Just legalize. 
Tue, 06/12/2012 - 2:27am Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Jumping ship in the middle of a storm to get onto a bigger craft is not necessarily the best thing to do . Rand`s endorsement of status-quo romney , may have been the price for a Ron Paul speech at the convention . We`ll see . Rand is [ ? ] for Hemp but [ ? ] against Marijuana [ Cannabis ] . If it smells............

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 3:07am Permalink
mrcrzy (not verified)


What does it take to get the Supreme Justices to declare the prohibition law unconstitutional?

Just asking, seems all we do is talk about this, the President has written an EO which includes hemp when is he going to do anything with it or will it or does it automatically go into effect but, to what effect or extent?

Its not just a high, it's relaxation, stimulant, pain manager, and a kaleidoscope of other good things for us,  with out the side effects. The people stopping this say it's not a proven substance, bull! been around over 5000 years and did I hear somewhere that Marijuana has never killed anyone and Doctors didn't have to prescribe it either as it was grown responsibly male and female plants? How long before total civil disobedience on this subject, George and Thomas would turn over in their graves if they could hear what's been going on for the past 70+ years!

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 6:16pm Permalink
OldBull (not verified)

His lavender soap is the greatest!  I'm going out later today and buy a big bottle of it.

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 2:34pm Permalink
Anonymous Andy (not verified)


Sat, 06/16/2012 - 11:45am Permalink
brenda jake (not verified)

My journey with breast cancer started in November 2004. I was devastated, scared and numb when I found out I had cancer. At the time, I was 48 and thought that I was healthy.
I immediately started researching doctors and treatments. I found a surgeon near my home outside of Savannah, Georgia to remove the tumor. After the surgery, I consulted with a local oncologist and radiologist. The doctors were so impersonal. They didn't want to listen to a word I was saying. They wanted to put me in one of those cookie-cutter scenarios. There were no other options for me. They just wanted to cut, radiate and do the chemo. I felt with the way they were conducting business, I had to get a second opinion. so we decided to try Rick Simpson hemp oil. we contacted Rick via: [email protected], i used the oil for a month and there was great changes.

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 8:05pm Permalink

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