ESCONDIDO, Calif. - - An Escondido businessman is reportedly facing charges of marijuana possession and blocking passage Wednesday after his arrest during an unusual one-man protest outside the White House.
David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps locked himself in a steel cage Monday, along with dozens of hemp plants, to protest federal laws that prevent American farmers from growing hemp. He had planned to press enough oil out of the plants to spread on a piece of French bread and eat it, The Washington Post reported.
The plan was thwarted when authorities used a chainsaw to cut open the cage and arrest Bronner on suspicion of possession of marijuana and blocking passage, according to the Post.
Bronner spokesman Ryan Fletcher told the newspaper that it was decided to stage the protest after a 28,000-signature petition asking for hemp legalization didn't get the response Bronner wanted. U.S. farmers have been forbidden from growing hemp since the 1950s but the product can legally be shipped in from other countries.
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps imports more than 20 tons of hemp oil annually to use in the company's products. The family-run company was founded in Germany 153 years ago but has been headquartered in Escondido for the past 64 years.
Fourth- and fifth-generation Bronners currently run the company, which reports annual sales of more than $50 million, according to U-T San Diego. David Bronner is the CEO.
Bronner and fellow activists have long fought to educate the public and policymakers about the differences between hemp and marijuana. Bronner has said that the hemp oil his company uses contains almost none of the active ingredient sought out by marijuana users and would be useless to those looking to get high.
The main active ingredient in marijuana is THC. The North American Industrial Hemp Council reports on its website that the THC content in industrial hemp plants is between 0.5 and 1 percent compared to the 3 to 20 percent found in marijuana. To get a "high,'' a person would have to smoke up to a dozen hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time, according to the council.
"The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand,'' according to the NAIHC.
In addition to soap products like those made and sold by Bronner's company, hemp is used to manufacture clothing. Users argue hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent and more mildew-resistant than cotton. Advocates also say hemp can be used for fuel.
Monday was not Bronner's first run-in with federal authorities. In 2009, he was arrested for trying to plant hemp seeds in front of the Drug Enforcement Administration's headquarters in Arlington, Va.