The Plant Is a Raw Material, Not Pot, Head of Soap Company Says

David Bronner locked himself in a metal cage Monday outside the White House with a stash of hemp plants and equipment, hoping to make enough hemp oil to spread on a piece of French bread.

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Bronner, president and chief executive of Dr.  Bronner’s Magic Soaps, never got to finish the oil-pressing process or to have his usual breakfast.

D.C.  police and firefighters used a chain saw to cut open the steel cage door and arrest him.  Bronner was charged with possession of marijuana and blocking passage.

Bronner, whose Californiabased company uses hemp oil in its soap products, pleaded with President Obama – via microphone – to allow hemp harvesting in the United States.

Bronner was moved to protest after a recent 28,000-signature petition asking for hemp legalization didn’t get the response he wanted, according to his spokesman, Ryan Fletcher.

The protest began at 8 a.m., when Bronner and his caged trailer were dropped off on H Street NW next to Lafayette Square.  Park police and Secret Service members joined D.C.  police and fire officials, who worked for a couple of hours to open the cage.

Bronner had designed the trailer so it could not easily be broken into or towed away by police, Fletcher said.

Atop the trailer was a sign that read, “DEAR MR.  PRESIDENT.  LET U.S.  FARMERS GROW HEMP!”

Bronner’s actions prompted police to shut down traffic around 16th and H streets at about 10:30 a.m.

U.S.  drug law defines hemp as a controlled substance, the same as marijuana, making the plants inside Bronner’s trailer illegal.  Live hemp seeds may not be imported into the country, and hemp may not be grown.  However, hemp-derived food, textiles and other products may be imported or produced in the United States from non-living hemp material.

Bronner says that lab tests confirm the THC level in his hemp plants is less than 0.3 percent, the international standard for industrial hemp.  THC is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, where it is much more concentrated.

“We import roughly $100,000 a year of hemp oil from Canada,” Fletcher said.  “He’s doing this action in part because he wants to be able to source that hemp oil from American farmers, rather than exporting his dollars to Canada.”

Last week, Sen.  Ron Wyden ( D-Ore.  ) introduced a measure that would label hemp as an agricultural crop.  The amendment was backed by Sen.  Rand Paul ( R-Ky.  ).

Monday’s protest was not Bronner’s first action to promote hemp cultivation in the United States.  In 2009, Bronner and others planted hemp seeds on the front lawn of the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center in Arlington.  They were arrested and charged with trespassing.

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Bronner’s grandfather, E.H.  Bronner, founded Dr.  Bronner’s Magic Soap in 1948.  The company produces some of the top-selling organic soaps in the country.

Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2012 The Washington Post Company