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Marijuana With a Mission: Brother David's Quest to Turn the Cannabis Industry Truly Green and Good [FEATURE]

Top Stories (STDW) - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 16:26

With the advent of legalization, the marijuana cultivation industry is being transformed -- and not always for the better. What was once an illicit lifestyle with mom and pop growers hiding in the hills and playing cat and mouse games with prohibition enforcers is now a legal, above-board economic sector that increasingly resembles industrial agriculture, complete with massive indoor grows the size of football fields that gobble up energy, suck up water, and require large inputs of nutrients and pesticides.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]These sorts of practices are not exactly environmentally-friendly and they turn a blind eye to the climate change crisis that is already having an impact in this country, whether it's ever-more-drenching downpours during hurricanes, more frequent and intense tornados, shorelines inundated by rising sea levels, or -- closer to home for the legal marijuana industry -- drought and forest fires in California and the Pacific Northwest.

Now, some stalwarts of environmental and drug reform activism are partnering with one of California's most environmentally and socially-conscious cannabis distributors to try to tip the industry and marijuana consumers toward embracing ecologically-aware best practices that protect family farms, produce highest-quality product at competitive prices, and are good for the planet.

David Bronner, grandson of the founder of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and the company's CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer), is joining forces with small, sun-grown farmer champion and sustainable cannabis supply chain company Flow Kana to create Brother David's, a nonprofit marijuana company for consumers who value where their weed was grown and care about how it was produced. The venture will also promote a "beyond organic" Sun + Earth certification that all its products will carry.

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, pot farmers who wish to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable, environmentally-sound organic agriculture practices cannot avail themselves of the label "organic," which is a federal program operated by the US Department of Agriculture. Sun + Earth certification seeks to fill that gap, and then some.

The Sun + Earth label "certifies that cannabis brands are holistically, responsibly, and regeneratively grown for the well-being of all people, farmers, and the planet," the group's web site explains. "We set the standard above and beyond organic." As seen in draft standards released for public comment last August, compliance with standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements is just the beginning. The standards go above and beyond organic by promoting biodiversity and preserving ecosystem health, water conservation, carbon sequestration, growing plants in natural light only, and promoting soil conservation, among other requirements.

Such standards are wholly in line with the cutting edge save-the-planet practices now known as regenerative agriculture, which its practitioners define as following: "Regenerative Agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities."

That's exactly what Bronner and Flow Kana want to create in the marijuana industry.

[image:2 align:right caption:true]"The problem with cannabis production now is the same as with industrial agriculture in general," Bronner said in a phone interview last week. "Now that we're post-prohibition, we have all the same problems as every legal commodity crop. We're seeing huge, indoor corporate grows that rely on chemicals and are energy-intensive and are displacing small farmers. There's a way we should be growing our crops that is regenerative, that builds top soil and creates biodiverse habitat for wildlife -- not dumping huge amounts of pesticides and fertilizers on the land and forcing farmers off the land to work for slave wages."

Flow Kana has the pot farmers Brother David's is looking for. Dedicated to creating the first sun-grown cannabis brand while supporting the state's small, independent marijuana farming ecosystem, the company has partnered with more than 200 Northern California growers using organic farming practices. Not every Flow Kana partner farmer is Sun + Earth certified, but every partner farmer whose product is destined for Brother David's is.

"It took us awhile to find Flow Kana," Bronner noted. "We didn't know of any distribution entity of any size that wasn't trying to integrate with massive grows. But there is a real cool family at the heart of the company; they have really good ethics about partnering with farmers, they're very transparent, and their top farms are all totally regenerative organic. These are multigenerational back-to-the-land farmers who've been growing cannabis alongside vegetables for decades."

"The Emerald Triangle's ecosystem of small farms is a rare one that regenerative pioneers like Dr. Bronner's have spent decades creating in their supply chain. The cannabis industry already has this and we have to fight to preserve it from the ways of industrial agriculture," said Michael Steinmetz, Flow Kana CEO. "This movement is not only about saving these environmental and community values but making this decentralized model of agriculture the gold standard for others to follow across the cannabis industry and beyond. This fight requires everyone's involvement and careful collaboration across many operators, distributors, retailers, and brands working in tandem to preserve, protect, and evolve our industry and world."

Veteran Washington, DC activist Adam Eidinger, who organized the District's successful 2014 marijuana legalization initiative, is a longtime Bronner ally who describes himself as "a missionary" for Brother David's. He accompanied Bronner on Emerald Triangle scouting trips looking for the right farms.

"We visited all the farms," he recalled in a phone interview. "They're all advocate farms. They've been in the space since before it was legal, some of them 30 or 40 years. These are well-established, multigeneration cannabis farmers. But they're also farms that can grow their own nutrients on-site, they usually also have livestock, veggies, greens, perennials, maybe 40 crops on a small amount of land. And no-till agriculture. You end up losing a lot of topsoil every time you till," he added.

"Brother David's is an activist brand," Eidinger emphasized. "This is people who have consistently been fighting for reform for 20 years, and we're jumping in now, kind of late, because we want to identify cannabis that consumers can trust and we want to support regenerative organic farmers, small-scale producers who have transitioned to the legal market. With this brand, consumers can put their money where it will do the most good."

That's because Brother David's is not only operating under agricultural best practices, it's operating as a nonprofit, with all net proceeds going to support regenerative ag and drug and criminal justice reform efforts.

"Brother David's is dedicating 100% of net profits, and a big chunk of that will go to drug policy reform groups, and not just cannabis reform," Eidinger explained. "David committed $5 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) through Dr Bronner's, but there is still more need with more studies and initiatives. Some of the money will go to criminal justice reform in general, not necessarily about drugs, things like prisoner reentry and sentencing reform. If this takes off, we can do more for the community, and that's the mission. Other companies' mission is to make money."

"The cannabis legalization movement has achieved significant victories in the last 20 years. Now, we need to advance consumer and environmental interests by implementing regenerative organic agriculture in the cannabis industry," said Bronner. "As society moves closer and closer toward the federal legalization of cannabis, we need to chart a new course before it's too late. We need to promote Sun + Earth and other high bar standards -- because it's best for the Earth in this age of climate crisis, and produces the cleanest, greenest and most ethical cannabis possible."

Brother David's is rolling out beginning in May in select California dispensaries. It will offer nine strains from eight different Sun + Earth certified farms partnering with Flow Kana. The strains are priced to compete in the mid-price premium market. For pot people who want to do their share to save the planet, it's time to get woke and bake with Brother D.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org, the publisher of this newsletter.

Categories: Latest News

DHS Considers Classifying Fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction [FEATURE]

Top Stories (STDW) - Tue, 04/23/2019 - 21:33

The military affairs and news web site Task & Purpose has obtained an internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that shows the agency is considering designating the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) "when certain criteria are met."

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Typically produced in China and then smuggled through Mexico or sent directly to the US via package delivery services, fentanyl has been implicated in tens of thousands of drug overdose deaths in recent years. The drug is doubly dangerous because not only is it dozens of times stronger than heroin, it is all too often mixed in with other drugs so that consumers ingest it unwittingly.

The memo obtained by Task & Purpose was dated February 22, 2019 and titled "Use of counter-WMD authorities to combat fentanyl." It was prepared for then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen by DHS Assistant Secretary for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction James F. McConnell, who sketched the background of the drug and noted how some members of the federal government see it as a potential "mass casualty weapon."

McConnell is a long-time homeland security official who has led the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office since he was appointed by President Trump in May 2018.

"Fentanyl's high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking nonconventional materials for a chemical weapons attack," he wrote. "In July 2018, the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate assessed that '...fentanyl is very likely a viable option for a chemical weapon attack by extremists or criminals'," he wrote.

But other parts of the memo suggest DHS is considering the move not only as part of a war on fentanyl but as a means of obtaining more funding for the agency's WMD activities. Indeed, funding for the counter-WMD program has declined under Trump, whose homeland security priorities are focused on the US-Mexico border, despite crime rates at the border being lower than in other parts of the country.

"[Counter-WMD] Office efforts will focus on quantities and configurations that could be used as mass casualty weapons," McDonnell wrote as he tried to sell the idea. "However, many activities, such as support to fentanyl interdiction and detection efforts, would tangentially benefit broader DHS and interagency counter-opioid efforts. Within the past couple years, there has been a reinvigorated interest in addressing fentanyl and its analogues as WMD materials due to the ongoing opioid crisis," he added.

The Counter-WMD office could help in the fight against fentanyl by developing and managing new technologies, deploying sensors, and helping other agencies in the field, McDonnell told Nielsen. He also claimed that senior Defense Department leaders "had proposed formally designating fentanyl as a WMD material."

Neither the Defense Department nor DHS would comment to Task & Purpose on the report, but members of the counter-WMD community contacted by the web site reacted with bemusement and skepticism.

Fentanyl as a WMD is a "fringe scenario," chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense expert Dan Kaszeta reacted. There are "literally dozens" of toxic chemicals that could be easily weaponized, he said.

"This is like declaring ecstasy as a WMD," said another member of the Defense Department's counter-WMD team speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It reads like somebody is laying the administrative background for trying to tap into pots of money for detecting WMD and decontaminating WMD," Kaszeta told Task & Purpose. "It's an interdepartmental play for money, that's all it is."

But McConnell is planning to move ahead. In the memo, he said his office would continue to brief DHS on fentanyl-related counter-WMD efforts and would schedule an interagency planning event on fentanyl.

An unnamed senior Defense official told Task & Purpose that while such a meeting was probably "a good idea," it was far more likely that someone seeking a chemical WMD would instead turn to sarin or mustard gas. "Anybody with a college level degree in chemistry can manufacture chemical weapons agents," he said.

"I cannot see any scenario where a nation-state would use fentanyl on the battlefield, or for that matter, a terrorist using a really toxic chemical like fentanyl in an attack when they could just sell it for funding the purchase of firearms and explosives or steal an industrial chemical instead," the official added.

In that light, McConnell's memo appears more as a cynical bureaucratic exercise aimed at increasing program budgets rather than a serious effort to address homeland security.

Categories: Latest News

Ethan Nadelmann: We Hit A Drug Policy Tipping Point

DrugSense Blog - Tue, 10/29/2013 - 16:25
The HCLU has several videos from the 2013 international drug policy reform conference in Denver on their Youtube channel.
Categories: Latest News

Hundreds of Medical Marijuana Supporters Protest Obama in Oakland as Feds Escalate War on Pot

Alternet - Tue, 07/24/2012 - 18:00
Demanding answers for unjustified federal raids and threats, patients challenged the DEA's claim that marijuana has no medical use.
Categories: Latest News

We Can't End AIDS Until We End the Drug War

Alternet - Tue, 07/24/2012 - 18:00
The end of AIDS is not just possible -- but predictably achievable -- if we end the war on drugs.
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4 Major Ways Countries Have Reduced Drug-Related Disease and Death -- Are We Americans Too Conceited to Imitate Them?

Alternet - Tue, 07/24/2012 - 00:00
Over the past two decades, a number of countries have implemented evidence-based programs that reduce the harms associated with drugs -- but the U.S. isn't listening.
Categories: Latest News

It's Not Just NYC: Across America, Only Black and Brown People Get Arrested for Pot

Alternet - Mon, 07/23/2012 - 06:00
The racial ratios of reefer roundups are as bad as New York's—if not worse—in scores of other U.S. cities.
Categories: Latest News

Will Compliance With State Medical Pot Laws Finally be Admissible in Federal Prosecutions?

Alternet - Sat, 07/21/2012 - 02:00
A bipartisan effort has reintroduced the Truth in Trials Act again -- but will unprecedented federal crackdowns help push it through the House?
Categories: Latest News

Infographic: How Drug War Fuels the Global HIV Pandemic

Alternet - Sat, 07/21/2012 - 00:00
Drug criminalization and mass incarceration force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments with higher HIV risks.
Categories: Latest News

Europe Field-Tests the Drug Policy Spectrum

Alternet - Fri, 07/20/2012 - 21:00
Two trends are emerging in European countries' drug policies; the expensive and failing approach of criminalization and one based on scientific evidence and harm reduction.
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7 States Moving Toward Drug Sentencing Reform

Alternet - Fri, 07/20/2012 - 18:00
These states are not undertaking a radical rethinking of the rote resort to incarceration, but they are nibbling at the edges, particularly when it comes to drug offenders.
Categories: Latest News

Marketing the Munchies: How Fast Food Companies Target Stoners

Alternet - Fri, 07/20/2012 - 00:00
From 420 calorie burritos to Taco Bell's "Fourth Meal," fast-food companies are pushing products to stoners like never before.
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How Weed Can Protect Us From Cancer and Alzheimer's

Alternet - Thu, 07/19/2012 - 18:00
Hardly the harmful intoxicant that many once thought it was, cannabis is a nourishing plant that actually improves and prolongs life.
Categories: Latest News

Lawsuit Challenges Oregon's Signature-Invalidating Crusade to Keep Legal Pot Off the Ballot

Alternet - Tue, 07/17/2012 - 00:00
The Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative (OMPI) has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kate Brown over her office's invalidation of tens of thousands of signatures.
Categories: Latest News

How Big Pharma and Dr. Drew Made a Fortune Deceiving America

Alternet - Mon, 07/16/2012 - 20:00
Aggressive marketing and paid promotion by doctors like Drew Pinsky obscure medication risks and can lead to human tragedy.
Categories: Latest News

Feds' Threat to Shut Down World's Largest Dispensary Reveals Motives Behind Pot War

Alternet - Sat, 07/14/2012 - 15:00
The drug war is Obama's war.
Categories: Latest News

The Rebel Doctor: 'Addicts Are Some of the Happiest People I Know'

Alternet - Fri, 07/13/2012 - 18:00
Meet Gabor Maté, a doctor who works with North America’s only supervised injection site and believes that addicts are some of the happiest people he knows.
Categories: Latest News

"Abuse-Deterrent" OxyContin Leads to Heroin Use -- So How Do We Curb the Pill Epidemic?

Alternet - Thu, 07/12/2012 - 22:00
The New England Journal of Medicine recently released research showing that the recent introduction of the reformulated version of OxyContin is linked to increases in heroin use.
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Botched DEA Raid Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities Around the World

Alternet - Thu, 07/12/2012 - 18:00
A deadly May raid brought the impact of the drug war on local communities in Honduras into the global spotlight.
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The Top 3 Summer Weed Reads

Alternet - Thu, 07/12/2012 - 17:00
Here are some good reads about one of our favorite subjects.
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