The genesis of Brother David’s

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[Important Disclaimer: while I am the Cosmic Engagement Officer of Dr. Bronner’s and discuss important relevant insights below from running Dr. Bronner’s with my family, Brother David’s is a wholly separate non-profit financed by Brother Cody Swift of the RiverStyx Foundation, and is not a project of Dr. Bronner’s.]

The seeds of Brother David’s were planted back in 1995 during the 8th Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, where I was living at the time. I had experienced first-hand the power of cannabis and psychedelic sacraments to open our hearts and minds to the miracle of life—to see that we are not separate from each other or the natural world, but one with it. I realized directly and immediately the truth of what my grandfather, Dr. Bronner, was saying all his life and on every one of his soap labels: in a powerful mysterious way, within and beyond the suffering and absurdity of life, is the deep Love and Light that all shamanic and faith traditions in their mystical core are pointing at. We are truly All-One! But when we make dogmatic idols out of our beliefs and symbols, we close down access to our transcendent Source.

Amsterdam in 1995 was the center of the cannabis universe. I was living in a squat with an international crew of cannabis growers and activists. I met many courageous people who stood for liberty, consciousness and our right to the sacramental use of cannabis—people who were facing 10 years to life if they stepped foot back in the US. 

I woke up to the religious and social dimension of the war on drugs, which was primarily a war on cannabis, the sacrament of my people, with tens of thousands of us locked up, families shredded, souls destroyed. Cannabis prohibition was a proxy to oppress not only the counterculture, but historically and brutally, people of color.

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At the same time, in deep cannabis meditations I saw the ecological and cultural catastrophe that Western consumption was wreaking on the planet. We are living through the sixth great extinction event, like a comet heading for the planet, with ecosystems, communities and cultures everywhere in collapse. I adopted a plant-based diet, and connecting with my grandfather’s vision, I returned to the US and eventually joined my family in running Dr. Bronner’s as an activist engine for positive change.

At Dr. Bronner’s, we leverage our profits and supply chains to drive social and environmental change toward a world united in peace and respect, in harmonious relationship with the natural world. As a family, we’ve directed over $60 million to philanthropic and activist causes, including over $5 million toward ending state and federal prohibition of cannabis, as well as $5 million to the Multi-Disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). One of the first things I did at Dr. Bronner’s—aside from putting hemp seed oil in our soaps to set up a showdown with the DEA—was take responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of our agricultural supply chains. 

When you close your eyes to where and under what conditions your materials are produced, and buy on spec and price alone, farming communities are pitted against each other, often displaced from their land and forced to work for slave wages in huge corporate plantations that use chemical-intensive ecologically-destructive methods to produce the commodities we consume. Industrial agriculture rips fertility out of the land, releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases, and destroys entire ecosystems and communities. 

We did not want to do business in this way, so we decided to establish direct trading relationships with farming communities who grow and produce our raw materials. We pay a fair price that enables farmers and workers to enjoy decent livelihoods in vibrant and thriving communities, and manage their land according to best regenerative organic principles. 

When cannabis was legalized for personal use in California in 2016, I saw cannabis in the same predicament as every other legal commodity crop: corporate industrial players were moving in, investing in huge energy- and chemical-intensive grow operations and displacing small family farmers who had been growing in a regenerative earth-and-community building way. There was a crucial need for a high-bar third party certified consumer-facing standard for growing cannabis regeneratively. Sun+Earth Certification was developed collaboratively by next level regenerative farmers, organizations and companies in the cannabis world.

Brother David’s is a brand platform to elevate this new growing standard, with 100% of profits going to improve the land, lives and communities of our cannabis family, as well as towards ending federal prohibition once and for all. Brother David’s envisions a world where all our farming ecosystems are regenerative and organic, producing our food, clothes, personal care and medicines in ways that support thriving rural economies and biodiverse wild habitats.

Cannabis is our sacred ally, helping us heal, connect and appreciate each other, and elevating our consciousness into the magical living moment. Cannabis should be grown and consumed consciously, respecting its connection to the land and the people who grow it. This consciousness not only enhances the quality of the cannabis, but the quality of our experience with it. By supporting Brother David’s, you are connecting in a deep and meaningful way to the farmer and the land itself, and supporting a way of farming that can help heal the land and restore our elemental connection to ourselves, each other, and our sacred Earth.