David Bronner, CEO of the organic soap company Dr. Bronner’s, once said, “We’re here to freak the straight world out.” This week he continued on his mission to shake things up by pledging $600,000 to cannabis legalization campaigns in five states.
Best known for its hemp-based Castile soaps, Dr. Bronner’s plans to partner with other organizations that fight for cannabis legalization, including the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and New Approach PAC. The company intends to help fund legalization campaigns in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, which are the five states with adult-use cannabis measures on the ballot in November.
In 2012, David locked himself in a metal cage with a stash of hemp plants and equipment, hoping to make enough hemp oil to spread on a piece of French bread.
“The expected sweep of these states will exert enormous pressure on federal lawmakers to end the racist outdated policy of cannabis prohibition, that shreds productive citizens’ lives and families for no good reason, and focus law enforcement resources instead on actual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,” the company said in a statement about the donation.
Dr. Bronner’s was created in its current form in 1948 by Emanuel Bronner, a rabbi, chemist, moral philosopher, and third-generation master soap maker under the guild system of the time (although notably, not a doctor). According to the company’s website, he brought his formulas for high-quality liquid and bar soaps to America in 1929 from Germany, escaping the Nazi Holocaust. His parents remained in Germany and would not survive Nazi rule.
Whether it was the brush with an oppressive regime that impacted the company or just a deep-seated sense of justice, the company has long been committed to making a difference.
“Today, Dr. Bronner’s continues its mission and commitment to building an engine for promoting and advancing positive social change,” the company said. “From pioneering USDA certified organic personal care products, to creating Fair Trade projects across the world that ensure fair and just treatment of farmers and workers, to creating a socially responsible workplace here in the U.S., we strive to honor our heritage with progressive business practices, while devoting profits to worthwhile causes and charities worldwide.”
Emanuel passed away in 1997, at the age of 89, and his grandson David is now in charge of the company. The fifth-generation Bronner got his degree at Harvard before heading to Amsterdam to “find himself,” he’s said in the past. During his time in the Dutch capital, David forged his own activism — with hemp at its core.
In 2012, David was arrested outside the White House while protesting laws that outlawed harvesting hemp. He had locked himself in a metal cage with a stash of hemp plants and equipment, hoping to make enough hemp oil to spread on a piece of French bread. He did not get to finish the oil-pressing process, however, as he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and blocking passage.
Cannabis legalization isn’t the only cause Dr. Bronner’s has pledged massive amounts of money to this election season. The company donated $250,000 to the Fairness Project to support lifting minimum wages in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and Washington state. The company was also active in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C., to $15 by 2021, a measure that achieved victory in June of this year.
Dr. Bronner’s is also working with allies at the Humane Society of the United States, donating $100,000 to the Yes on 3 campaign in Massachusetts, which would end the confinement of veal calves, egg-laying hens, and pigs in that state.