Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the top-selling organic liquid and bar soap brand in North America, is known for using hemp oil in its products. Now, the company will go a step further and officially support marijuana legalization campaigns in five states with a donation for over half a million dollars.
According to a company announcement, Dr. Bronner's has pledged $660,000 to New Approach and the Marijuana Policy Project, two organizations working towards marijuana law reform. The organizations will use the money in legalization campaigns across California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and Nevada. All five states will be voting on whether to legalize medical or recreational marijuana during the November elections.
"The expected sweep of these states will exert enormous pressure on federal lawmakers to end the racist outdated policy of cannabis prohibition, that shreds productive citizens' lives and families for no good reason, and focus law enforcement resources instead on actual crime," says David Bronner, the CEO and grandson of company founder Emanuel Bronner.
David Bronner has been a marijuana activist since the 1990s, before he joined the family business. After graduating Harvard in 1995, he lived in Amsterdam and grew cannabis. When he moved back to the U.S., Bronner, who drives a car powered by used vegetable oil, joined the legalization fight in California. When Bronner joined the family business in 1997, he changed the soap recipe slightly. Bronner decided to remove caramel coloring, which was an undisclosed ingredient his grandfather added to the soap to give it a nice golden brown color. Bronner wanted to make sure that every single ingredient was natural and organic, so he replaced caramel coloring with hemp oil. For Bronner, the small change had a big meaning.
Tom Foster, Inc.'s editor-at-large, wrote a profile about Dr. Bronner's in 2012 and explored how David Bronner wove together his passion for drug law reform and building a better business.
"One of the reasons we liked hemp was that it was at the nexus of a bunch of hot issues," Bronner told Inc. in 2012. "Environmental issues, and also drug policy."
Hemp is not only a good dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, it is one of the strongest plant fibers in the world, can grow easily without pesticides, and, Bronner says, hemp oil is a perfect natural additive for soap. He says it helps increase lather and leaves a nice skin-feel. But, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration viewed hemp a little differently back then and did not make the distinction between hemp, which is not psychoactive, and marijuana, which is psychoactive.
In 2001, after Bronner's changed the recipe for his soap, President Bush ordered the DEA to seize shipments of hemp oil at the Canadian border. Bronner led the hemp industry in the battle against the federal government and sued the DEA. Eventually, Bronner's lawsuit led to the government reversing its policy about hemp and hemp oil.
Dr. Bronner's supports drug law reform, but the company's performance is in no way laid back. Over the last 15 years, the company has grown revenue by 1,000 percent and brought in more than $44 million in annual sales.