David Bronner’s Legacy of Activism
He’s been called an organic legend, an acid-dropping burner and a six-foot-five rave version of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Personally, I think David Bronner is a mix of Bernie Sanders, Dr. Who and Terrence McKenna. He’s been a true progressive activist behind the scenes for years. His ideas seem to be from the future, and he is seriously trippy AF. The best part? He’s made his family’s company, Dr. Bronner’s, a multi-million dollar, modern day-activist engine.
I met David at the Natural Products Trade Show in 1998.
He was 25 and had spent the last year working for Bronner’s as the company’s “activist.” Initially, he didn’t really want to be in the soap making business, though he found his life’s purpose after massive psychedelic experiences candy-flipping (combining LSD and MDMA) in Amsterdam.
He had already graduated from Harvard with a Biology degree, so he decided to head back to the states and help his father run the business his grandfather started. Unfortunately, soon after David’s decision to return home and work for the company, his father, Jim, was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and passed away in June of ‘98.
David went from Chief Activist to CEO.
We would continue to cross paths at the Natural Products Expos, and became friends through our mutual love for social justice, altered states and, of course, natural products.
For those of you that may have avoided Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap because the wordy label looks like a California cult thing, let me clear things up for you.
His grandfather, Emanuel (Emil) Bronner, fled the Nazis and came to America. He left behind his parents, who didn’t think Hitler was going to get far in politics. History proved them wrong, and they tragically did not survive the Holocaust. Emil, a soap maker, began to give talks in the US about all of us being on this planet together, “ALL ONE,” and how we should all get along. He made soap to entice people to attend his lectures. He soon realized people would come, grab a soap, and leave, so he decided to print his message right on the label:
IN ALL WE DO, LET US BE GENEROUS, FAIR & LOVING TO SPACESHIP EARTH AND ALL ITS INHABITANTS. FOR WE ARE ALL ONE OR NONE! THE ALL ONE CULT THAT YOU ARE AFRAID OF, YOU ALREADY BELONG TO, EARTHLING.
In 2001, when the hemp movement was ramping up, the DEA seized all the hemp seeds coming from Canada. David jumped into action, sued their ass, and won!
He supported the movement to raise the minimum wage, donated a half million dollars to the cause, and even went so far as to cap his own pay and those at his level in the company at five times the amount made by the lowest-paid e
mployee, which was unprecedented at the time.
Greenwashing hit an all-time high in 2007, and Bronner’s sued the USDA for allowing companies who used misleading organic labeling. This led to a shit storm at the Natural Products
Expo. Companies who were claiming organic (but weren’t) wanted David’s head! I remember talking to the National Whole Body Buyer at Whole Foods, who was pissed. Companies were wanting Whole Foods to drop Bronner’s, but they couldn’t—it was their number one-selling soap. Needless to say, David won that lawsuit, too.
David has been an active supporter and member of both the Hemp Industry Association and Vote Hemp since their respective inceptions. In 1996, Woody Harrelson was arrested for planting hemp seeds in rural Kentucky. David stepped up in 2009 and was arrested while planting hemp seeds on the DEA front lawn—to this day, a major burn confronting the hypocrisy of our government.
In 2012, I received a message from Adam Eidinger. Adam is Bronner’s Washington DC lobbyist and activist, who led the successful campaign to legalize the sacred herb in our nation’s capital in 2014, with Dr. Bronner’s financial backing. You may have heard of Adam from the VICE show, Weediquette, or the giant joint you see on the streets of DC at protests that he helps organize, or my personal favorite, when Adam posed as a Monsanto lobbyist and made it rain $1,600 from a balcony inside a Senate office building.
And who could forget when David locked himself inside an unmovable cage across from the White House, pressing hemp seeds into hemp oil while discussing the benefits of the plant?
He live-streamed the whole thing, to boot! It’s truly a shame it didn’t get more press. It was spectacular. They had to use the Jaws of Life to get him out of that cage. This protest also got David arrested.
Back in 2005, David was the first person who told me about micro-dosing, long before it was called micro-dosing. First, I laughed, though within minutes of talking with David I can remember thinking, “He’s right. The world would be a better place if more people took LSD.” David’s been a vegan for over twenty years, and is convinced that we could have a much more compassionate and peaceful planet if we took more psychedelics.
Talk about candy-flipping! I met up with David this last April at the Psychedelic Science Conference in Oakland, California, where Bronner’s pledged to don
ate $5 million to MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) to study MDMA therapy for treatment-resistant PTSD, something he has been passionate about for years.
Under David’s leadership, along with his brother, partner and company president Michael Bronner, the company has donated millions of dollars to various movements, including animal rights, cannabis, hemp, organic, fair trade, NON-GMO, social justice and psychedelic research.
You buy the soap, and they use the profits to make the world a better place. It’s not just soap anymore. The Bronner’s brands now include toothpaste, balms, hand sanitizers, organic coconut oil… and the list continues to grow.
David, like his grandfather, Emil, advocates environmentalism and the spiritual nature of humanity. There was a time in the early ‘90s when being an activist was like being a superhero. This is the era David Bronner comes from. With everything he has done so far, you would think he came here from the future, to make sure we all get there in one piece. And we could use a superhero from the future right now. Maybe more than ever.