Hemp Farming Legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill

Dr. Bronner’s Celebrates Historic Victory for Hemp Movement in the U.S.

December 20, 2018

VISTA, CA – Dr. Bronner’s, family owned maker of the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America, is celebrating the federal legalization of hemp farming in the U.S., after nearly two decades of the company’s advocacy and leadership on the issue. The 2018 Farm Bill, passed by Congress on December 12, 2018, and signed into law by the President on December 20, 2018, includes Section 10113 titled “Hemp Production,” which removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, places full regulatory authority of hemp with the USDA, and allows State departments of agriculture to regulate hemp cultivation per their State-specific programs.

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. The company applauds the work of all of the tireless activists whose leadership and dedication has been fundamental in achieving this historic victory.

“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,” said David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s, the top-selling natural brand of soaps in North America, that uses hemp seed oil in its products. “Dr. Bronner’s has advocated for the legalization of hemp farming since we added hemp seed oil to our products in 1999, and fought and beat the DEA during the Hemp Food Rules Challenge from 2001 to 2004. As a maker of hemp products, we are eager to source the 20 tons of hemp seed oil we use annually from American farmers. We applaud the leadership of Eric Steenstra, truly a hemp champion, whose leadership of Vote Hemp has united hemp companies, farmers, consumers, and lawmakers into a potent fighting force for the future of hemp in America.”

In addition to defining hemp as Cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (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. The full text of the Farm Bill of 2018 may be found at: https://www.votehemp.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/FarmBill-CRPT-115hrpt1072.pdf.

Due specifically to the leadership of Vote Hemp, Section 10113 of the Farm Bill of 2018 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 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed only for hemp farming research programs in ‘States.’

Dr. Bronner’s has long been a supporter of the movement to legalize hemp farming. In 1999, the company reformulated its 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, the company coordinated and funded the industry’s legal battle against the DEA, known as the “Hemp Food Rules Challenge,” which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of the plaintiffs, in 2004, and thereby successfully protected hemp food, body care and other products from attempts made by the DEA to regulate hemp goods as Schedule I Controlled Substances.

“Dr. Bronner’s has been a passionate supporter of Vote Hemp and the hemp farming movement since 2000, and Vote Hemp could not have achieved this victory without the company’s support, and specifically that of David Bronner. David has been a champion and through Dr. Bronner’s, a major funder of this issue for nearly two decades,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “We estimate that 77,731 acres of hemp were grown across 23 states last year, however much more hemp is needed to supply hemp for American consumers, who make up the largest market for hemp products in the world. It’s now time to turn our energy toward supporting farmers, and U.S. hemp businesses like Dr. Bronner’s, to build the needed manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains for a robust American hemp industry.”

With the goal of growing the hemp market in the U.S. in partnership with fellow hemp product manufacturers, Dr. Bronner’s was a founding architect of the Hemp History Week campaign in 2010, which has since educated millions of American consumers about the benefits of hemp products, and built grassroots momentum in support of the crop’s legalization. The company remains 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.

Dr. Bronner’s CEO, David Bronner, has twice engaged in direct action protests resulting in arrest, to draw public attention to the outdated and misguided drug policy that prohibited American farmers from growing hemp. In 2009, David Bronner and five fellow hemp advocates, including Eric Steenstra, symbolically planted hemp on the front lawn of the DEA Museum. In 2012, David Bronner protested the federal prohibition of hemp farming by locking himself 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 his 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 The Rodale Institute, the leading organic research institution 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., the company will soon begin sourcing the organic hemp oil used in its products from American farmers. Dr. Bronner’s commitment to hemp farming legalization has been a pillar of the company’s 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 the company’s commitment to regenerative organic agriculture.


About Dr. Bronner’s
Dr. Bronner’s is a family business committed to honoring the vision of founder Emanuel Bronner by making socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and by dedicating profits to help make a better world. Dr. Bronner’s commitment to social justice, environmental sustainability and progressive business practices is part of the company’s mission to put into practice the principles that inform the philosophy printed on the company’s iconic soap labels written by founder Emanuel Bronner. The company is the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America and widely renowned around the world. Based on 2017 sales, a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap was sold, on average, every 2.2 seconds throughout the year. For further information, please visit: www.drbronner.com.