D.C.’s Pot Legalization Initiative Gets Some Unexpected Star Power

This long-haired soap tycoon has attracted a cult following for his inventively packaged hemp soap and history of strange political actions.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
See more stories about...
Lucia Graves
Feb. 7, 2014, 8:59 a.m.

Dis­trict of Columbia res­id­ents might know Dav­id Bron­ner, the Cali­for­nia-based own­er of Dr. Bron­ner’s Ma­gic Soaps, as the guy who camped out in front of the White House in a steel cage un­til au­thor­it­ies came and for­cibly re­moved him with a power saw. At the time he was protest­ing U.S. hemp policy. Now the own­er of a top-selling nat­ur­al-soap chain has turned his sights to oth­er per­ceived Wash­ing­ton wrongs.

In 2013 he donated $100,000 to suc­cess­ful leg­al­iz­a­tion ini­ti­at­ives in Col­or­ado and Wash­ing­ton; this year Bron­ner put $20,000 in­to an ini­ti­at­ive to make it leg­al for Dis­trict res­id­ents to pos­sess up to 2 ounces of marijuana, to sell an ounce at a time, and to grow three plants in their homes. (The lead pro­ponent of the ini­ti­at­ive, Adam Ei­denger, is Bron­ner’s D.C. me­dia dir­ect­or.)

It’s a sub­stan­tial amount of money for an ini­ti­at­ive, first filed with the D.C. Board of Elec­tions in Janu­ary, that has so far raised just $28,000. But more im­port­ant than the fin­an­cial sup­port is the celebrity of this pony-tailed marijuana act­iv­ist whose rain­bow Mer­cedes runs on french-fry grease.

Bron­ner, the grand­son of com­pany founder Emanuel Bron­ner, has man­aged to turn the quirky soap com­pany, which sells tingly, li­quid hemp soap in weirdly wordy la­bels, in­to a ro­bust busi­ness with sales in the tens of mil­lions.

The man is a mas­ter of mar­ket­ing ab­surdity, so per­haps it makes sense that in an age when oth­er hip­pie products like Burt’s Bees and Tom’s of Maine have been bought up by lar­ger con­sumer-goods com­pan­ies, Bron­ner has pur­sued a rad­ic­al polit­ic­al agenda seem­ingly at odds with run­ning a large busi­ness. Bey­ond leg­al­iz­a­tion ef­forts, Bron­ner’s polit­ic­al agenda in­cludes protest­ing policies that fail to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between oil­seed and fiber vari­et­ies of can­nabis, and he’s fight­ing the rise of ge­net­ic­ally mod­i­fied foods.

It’s not your typ­ic­al busi­ness move, but people love him for it. “As a res­id­ent, I’m truly thank­ful for the rare busi­ness lead­er like Dav­id who not only talks the talk about giv­ing back to com­munit­ies but who so clearly and con­sist­ently walks the walk,” said Tom An­gell, chair­man of pro-leg­al­iz­a­tion group Marijuana Ma­jor­ity. “We need more like him.”

The meas­ure, which would re­quire the sig­na­tures of 23,000 D.C. res­id­ents to make it on the bal­lot in Novem­ber, comes as Dis­trict coun­cil mem­bers are pre­par­ing to de­crim­in­al­ize pos­ses­sion of small amounts of marijuana. Un­der the de­crim­in­al­iz­a­tion bill, pos­ses­sion of an ounce or less would be pun­ish­able only with a $25 fine. The coun­cil backed the bill in a pre­lim­in­ary vote this week, and the meas­ure is ex­pec­ted to be signed in­to law by May­or Vin­cent Gray.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×