Photos by Ben Droz
You gotta hand it to David Bronner. This dude knows how to stage a protest!
On the morning of Monday, June 11, the president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps locked himself inside a steel cage in front of Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. with ten pounds of hemp in order to draw attention to the federal government’s ban on the crop. Lafayette Park is across the street from the White House.
Bronner was inside of the cage nearly three hours. Park police tried to cut him out of the cage using huge metal clippers, but it wasn’t until firemen arrived with a chainsaw that Bronner could be removed.
Bronner's Magic Soaps is based in Escondido, CA. Bronner says he must spend over $100,000 annually importing hemp oil from Canadian farmers to produce his soap. From inside his cage, Bronner spoke on a microphone: “Obama has promised a rational approach to policies. So far, as President, he has blown off the US hemp industry.”
This time Bronner was accompanied by a dozen hemp plants from which he proceeded to make fresh hempseed oil using an oil press. He even passed out oil-smeared bread through the bars to spectators.
This isn’t the first time Bronner has used our nation’s capital as a stage for protests. In October 2010, Bronner and a group of cohorts attempted to plant hemp on the lawn of DEA headquarters.
Industrial hemp is cannabis sativa, but it is bred to contain less than 0.3 percent THC. It is non-psychoactive and cultivated for its fiber and seeds, from which oil can be produced for food and industry.
Presently, only the DEA can grant licenses to grow hemp. Under its jurisdiction, only one license has been granted, for a quarter-acre plot of hemp in a short-lived, experimental project in Hawaii. In essence, a law enforcement agency is in charge of an agricultural crop – one with deep roots in American history. Farmers across America clamor for a lucrative crop that can improve their bottom line and contribute to sound environmentalism, but hemp is classified as a Schedule One drug.
Bronner’s protest action comes after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced an amendment to the farm bill last week that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. A sister bill, H.R. 1831, was introduced in the House earlier this session by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).