Brother David’s, a not-for-profit cannabis company that launched in April, is trying to set high standards for cannabis cultivation in California—and the country—and invest in small family farmers at the same time, by using and backing a new certification system that goes beyond organics. Cannabis farmers, and until recently hemp farmers, cannot get their products certified organic via the United States Department of Agriculture as cannabis is still federally illegal.
Brother David’s is a partnership between David Bronner, CEO (“Cosmic Engagement Officer”) of the organic soapmaker Dr. Bronner’s, and Flow Kana, a California-based cannabis brand. Brother David’s only sources its cannabis from small family farms that are Sun+Earth certified.
The Sun+Earth certification not only requires cannabis farms to grow their crop outdoors using sustainable and regenerative practices, such as crop rotation and organic farm inputs, but to also treat their workers fairly and engage their local communities. Brother David’s currently sources its cannabis from eight Sun+Earth certified farms in California.
The Sun+Earth initiative comes as the state of California is creating a “comparable to organic” certification system, called O Cal, which is set to begin in January 2021. On July 24, regulators met for a fourth time with growers and other interested parties to discuss O Cal’s rules and standards. The idea is to largely mimic federal USDA organic standards, in hopes of an easy transition when cannabis becomes federally legal. (Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of that meeting here.)
David Bronner has a long history as an activist for cannabis legalization. He started using hemp seed oil in Dr. Bronner’s products in 1999, and was arrested in 2012 for locking himself in a metal cage full of hemp plants outside the White House to protest against the ban on industrial hemp. To date, Bronner and his family have spent $5 million on efforts to legalize cannabis at the state and federal level. They say they plan to spend another $2 million for the 2020 cycle, along with a plan to end cannabis prohibition in twenty states, Bronner told Cannabis Wire.
Brother David’s, which has been in the planning for two years, began sales in May and is independent of Dr. Bronner’s. Cannabis Wire spoke to David Bronner to find out more about Sun + Earth certification and the non-profit, which is financed by the RiverStyx Foundation, an organization that funds projects on drug policy reform, criminal justice, environmental conservation, and research on the benefits of psychoactive compounds. (This Q&A was edited for clarity.)