After nearly two decades of our company’s advocacy and leadership in this fight, I am proud to say that it is finally legal for farmers in the U.S. to grow hemp! The 2018 Farm Bill, passed by Congress earlier this month, and signed into law by the President today, December 20th, 2018, includes provisions which remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, place full regulatory authority of hemp with the USDA, and allow State departments of agriculture to regulate hemp cultivation per their State-specific programs.
In addition to defining hemp as Cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% teatrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight, the bill asserts a ‘whole plant’ definition of hemp, including plant extracts. Furthermore, this legislation removes roadblocks to the rapidly growing hemp industry in the U.S., notably by authorizing and encouraging access to federal research funding for hemp, and removing restrictions on banking, water rights, and other regulatory roadblocks the hemp industry currently faces. The bill also explicitly authorizes crop insurance for hemp.
Importantly, this bill also expands federally legal commercial hemp cultivation to tribal lands, reservations, and U.S. territories—lands that had previously been omitted in Sec. 7606 of the 2013 Farm Bill, which allowed only for hemp farming research programs in ‘States.’
This monumental progress toward returning hemp to American farmlands is in large part the result of Vote Hemp’s dedication and tenacious, strategic advocacy over the last 19 years. Dr. Bronner’s has diligently supported efforts by Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots organization dedicated to the legalization of hemp farming in the U.S., and other advocates in the hemp movement, such as the Hemp Industries Association, to engage State and Federal legislators on the legalization of hemp farming. We applaud the work of all of the tireless activists whose leadership and dedication has been fundamental in achieving this historic victory.
I, together with my family and company, have long been supporters of the movement to legalize hemp farming. In 1999, we reformulated our castile soaps to include hemp seed oil—resulting in a smoother lather and more moisturizing after feel, due to the hemp oil’s high omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In 2001, Dr. Bronner’s coordinated and funded the industry’s legal battle against the DEA, known as the “Hemp Food Rules Challenge.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in our favor in 2004, thereby successfully protecting hemp food, body care and other products from attempts by the DEA to regulate hemp goods as Schedule I Controlled Substances.
Dr. Bronner’s was a founding architect of the Hemp History Week campaign in 2010, with the goal of growing the hemp market in the US. In partnership with fellow hemp product manufacturers, Hemp History Week has helped educate millions of American consumers about the benefits of hemp products, and built grassroots momentum in support of the crop’s legalization. We remain a sponsor of Hemp History Week, soon to be celebrating its 10th year, June 3-9, 2019. Vote Hemp estimates that annual retail sales for hemp products in the U.S. have grown from $452 million in 2011, to $820 million in 2017.
I also twice took part in direct action protests, and was arrested, in order to draw public attention to the outdated and misguided drug policy that prohibited American farmers from growing hemp. In 2009, I and five fellow hemp advocates, including Eric Steenstra of Vote Hemp, symbolically planted hemp on the front lawn of the DEA Museum. In 2012, I protested the federal prohibition of hemp farming by locking myself in a uniquely crafted steel cage resembling a jail cell along with live hemp plants in front of the White House, and proceeded to harvest the seeds and press them for oil while explaining the purpose of this act of protest to all who gathered, including international media.
With the foresight that Kentucky would become a leader in the agricultural production and manufacturing of hemp products once the crop became federally legal to cultivate, Dr. Bronner’s donated $50,000 to the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission in 2012, funding the group’s efforts to structure a firm foundation for the hemp industry in the state. Today, Kentucky is a leading producer of hemp—a lucrative alternative for farmers exiting the declining tobacco industry.
In 2016, Dr. Bronner’s celebrated in solidarity with Alex White Plume, former President of the Oglala Sioux Lakota Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation, when he won a 16 year-long court battle defending the right of his tribe to cultivate hemp on their tribal lands. This litigation began in August of 2000, when DEA agents violated the Sioux Treaty of 1868 by illegally entering Pine Ridge to destroy White Plume’s hemp crop and intimidate other Pine Ridge farmers considering hemp cultivation. White Plume’s hemp crop had been planted legally, per an ordinance the Oglala Sioux Tribe had previously passed under White Plume’s leadership, two years prior, to allow hemp farming on Pine Ridge. Following the DEA raid, a federal injunction was placed against the White Plume family, to prevent them from ever cultivating hemp again. Dr. Bronner’s, alongside Vote Hemp, provided $25,000 for White Plume’s legal defense, finally resulting in victory 16 years later when the injunction was lifted.
In 2017, Dr. Bronner’s donated $100,000 to Rodale Institute, the leading organic research institute in the U.S., to support the organization’s multi-year research study on hemp cultivation within a regenerative organic farming model. The Rodale Institute’s current research on hemp focuses on the crop’s role in improving soil health in various organic crop rotations, its efficacy as a cover crop to suppress weeds, and its biomass and seed yields among four varieties of industrial hemp seed.
Following this monumental victory of federal hemp farming legalization in the U.S., my company will soon begin sourcing the organic hemp oil used in our products from American farmers. Dr. Bronner’s commitment to hemp farming legalization has been a pillar of our broader activism on drug policy and criminal justice reform; and Dr. Bronner’s ongoing advocacy for hemp farming will continue to be an aspect of our commitment to regenerative organic agriculture.