Transcript: When Ceo Stands For “Cosmic Engagement Officer” – David Bronner
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with David Bronner.
David Bronner is the “Cosmic Engagement Officer” for the family business, Dr. Bronner’s Soap (yes, the big bottles you’ve seen for decades at pharmacies and health food stores alike). He’s a proud psychonaut who has helped his company’s annual revenue grow from $5 million to $125 million. Along the way he’s created a new standard for how corporations can improve the lives of their employees and partners while giving away huge sums of money to vital causes.
David’s life’s work challenges us to reimagine ourselves as citizens of the planet, cultural participants, self-aware consumers, and individuals seeking wholeness. He warns about the “disaster of the Western colonialist mindset.”
In this episode we talk about:
- The transformative experiences that launched David on his current trajectory as a radically effective advocate, philanthropist, and organizational leader
- How psychedelics allowed him to merge his grandfather’s “cosmic vision” with his father’s relentless focus on “family, community, and taking care of the people right in front of you”
- The dangers posed by corporate interests in the psychedelic space and how we can navigate these risks
0:00:28 Paul Austin: Hey listeners, and welcome back to The Third Wave podcast, I’m coming at you from Granville, Michigan [chuckle] where I grew up. I was raised and I’m actually just back here for six days to have some rest and relaxation, from New York, it’s incredible. I’ve lived in New York now for 14-15 months and I just don’t realize all the energy that’s taken out of me when I’m there and then I get a chance to kinda step out of it and it feels like, “Oh this is how I’m supposed to be feeling.” So, well I love living in New York and all the people that I’ve met and the restaurants and the parties, and what’s going on in the psychedelic space, it’s all incredible. It does take a lot out of me, so I’m getting a chance to finally rest, relax, am syncing, spend time with my dog, go hiking and just work a little bit less, which is nice.
0:01:15 PA: Speaking of that, I just finished up an excellent podcast with David Bronner, the cosmic engagement officer, CEO, of Dr.Bronner’s, the Magical Soap Company, that many of you may be familiar with. Dr. Bronner’s has been an incredible support in the resurgence of the psychedelic Renaissance, having donated millions of dollars to MAPS. David Bronner is also a board member of MAPS, and basically, I had him on the show to talk about his own experiences with psychedelics, including Cannabis, how that then facilitated his own vision and where he’s taken Dr. Bronner’s and the role that they’ve played in contributing to MAPS. And then we got a little bit into public-benefit corporations and what real public-benefit corporations will have as psychedelics step into a more business and entrepreneurial mindset. This is an excellent podcast, and one that you will enjoy because of David Bronner’s unique perspective and outlook on how things have evolved in the space. And the role of business in helping us to heal as a culture and society.
0:02:27 PA: So, go ahead and take a listen and if you enjoy the podcast, we ask you please leave us a review on iTunes, and you can also support what we’re doing at Patreon.com/The Third Wave. There, you will find a chance to support us, in exchange for some gifts and items and whatnot. We also are offering retreats in Amsterdam, through Synthesis, a website I co-founded, a company that I co-founded, and that’s synthesisretreat.com. If you apply just mention that you’re applying through Third Wave, we would much appreciate that.
0:03:03 PA: Finally, we are in the full-on fundraising mode. So if you or anyone else you know of, would like to consider a contribution to Third Wave in a more significant amount, please reach out to me or our team to set up an initial conversation and call. We’re looking to raise $100,000 by the end of 2018, and we’re looking to raise $1 million by the end of 2019. And the focus really of what we’re doing is to increase psychedelic literacy because with the resurgence of medicalization, after medicalization, our culture really is going to be looking towards open access but to facilitate that people need to be educated about these and that’s the focus of what we’re doing.
0:03:45 PA: So, that’s the brief ragman roll. Without any further ado, I bring you David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer of Dr. Bronner’s Soap Company.
0:04:05 PA: Really, I just wanna start by again, publicly thanking you, David, for all the work that you’ve done and all of our listeners are, I’m sure, really excited about this podcast and I’d love just to start off by hearing a little bit about why in the world you gave so much money to MAPS to medicalize MDMA. So I’d love to hear a little bit about that story and that background before we kind of dig in further, to your personal relationship with all of this medicine.
0:04:36 David Bronner: Yeah, although I think to answer the question, I do have to talk about how powerful and important psychedelic medicine has been in my life. And I was in Amsterdam actually, after college in ’95, had just graduated and had a Euro pass and went to London and was kicking it in England for a little bit, and then went to Amsterdam and intersected the *th annual High Times Cannabis Cup, and just kinda met some really rad people who were staying in the squat scene there, was staying in a Squat, on Neither Strat and Kaiserbrakt, and met some amazing people, including Sam Smith who was one of the founders of our church, and our church was a church formed in Arkansas in ’93 I believe, and with Cannabis as a sacrament, and was basically making first amendment or a religious argument for sacramental use of Cannabis.
0:05:38 DB: And it’s kind of amazing that they tried to do this in Arkansas in ’93, obviously a dark time, in the drug war. So, not surprisingly, they were busted up and arrested, Reverend it was Tom Brown was in jail along with other members, he served, I think 10 plus years, but Sam Smith and a few others had escaped and gone to Amsterdam, and were facing extradition actually, and I think even a couple of them were successfully extradited. Just in this course, I had in college had embraced Cannabis and really started to question what I was learning. I was a biology major, and had some important and profound, initial psychedelic experiences, including a mushroom experience. I think my first, actually, where I remember looking at my arm and thinking, “What does it mean that on a quantum level, I’m not different from the world? Like there’s not a difference on a quantum… I’m in a quantum continuum. There’s not an end, where my skin ends and the world begins? And then thinking about eating and pooping, and the energy flows of the world just pouring through me, and my cells being replaced.
0:06:49 DB: And realizing I’m not different from the world, like I’m one with it, and just kinda dissolved in this Unity experience, really appreciated the importance of Cannabis as far as kicking it with friends, and listening to music, and having just profound, aesthetic experiences with music, and with laughter, and just being present to the miraculous moment. But was still not that political… I was still pretty apolitical about the whole thing.
0:07:16 DB: And it wasn’t till Amsterdam and hanging with with Sam Smith, and just really going deep, well then I had some really, really powerful… My real initiation happened in a trans-club in Amsterdam, just series of powerful death-rebirth experiences on LSD and MDMA. Just dying in the light, multiple ego deaths of just kind of laying myself down into the light. Anyway, so just really had a profound understanding that Cannabis is a sacrament, is one of our essential plant allies and sacraments and that the drug war is in large part a religious war against the sacrament of my people. And I really just kinda woke up to… Had a profound awakening in that context, political awakening. And then the psychedelic consciousness of just understanding the disaster of the consumerist colonial western mindset, and just our approach, and just our alienation from ourselves, and from each other, and from the natural world we live in. And the destruction we’re wrecking on the earth.
0:08:24 DB: We’re living through the sixth great extinction event. Just wrecking communities and just our consumerist culture is just so vapid, and not connected or disconnected from the rampant destruction and ecosystem crashes that we’re causing. So I adopted a vegan diet, which I still hold to today. Although I’m in strong solidarity with high animal welfare pasture-based livestock operators, and do believe in farming and agricultural system that mimics the natural ecosystem with a balance of animal and plant life. But that population of livestock needs to be dramatically reduced. But anyways, yeah, these psychedelic experiences were just incredibly powerful. And I guess one of the main… One of the primary experiences involved, understanding how my then girlfriend at the time, how I had really caged her and undercut her in all kinds of passive-aggressive ways, and been jealous of her, and her journeys to Asia, and her erotic adventures, and just free awesomeness.
0:09:53 DB: And just really seeing just how I was assaulting her soul. And that I was just better, “What are you doing? Get out of the way. It’s better you die than be in the way.” And then falling away from… In falling away and renouncing like, “I don’t wanna be that.” Just seeing this demonic horde of masculine energies, like dark energies, assaulting her light but then as soon as I fell away, the light just blazing forth and embracing me, and embracing me in a light of pure forgiveness, just infinite and just the heart chakra blew open and the light… So just very power… In the post-integration which took a long time, actually, these experiences were really powerful on a classic spiritual-emergency as Grof would define it, and just borderline schizophrenic, and not really having a context to interpret these experiences set on my path, to figure it out. And Stan Grof obviously was a huge help in providing the context of helping to integrate and understand what I’d experienced.
0:11:13 PA: In other words, how did that early experience inform the organizational culture, and the mission of the company that you now run?
0:11:22 DB: No, for sure. And it led… Actually, on that same kind of night, this was my deep initiation. Another cycle is really relevant to this is, I remember just kind of challenging God. Like I’d gone through a, “Right now I’m dancing, but there’s rape, there’s murder, there’s this horrible shit going down around the world, just fucking horrible. And what’s up God?” I was in this kind of hot-cold relationship with a Deep Self. And the answer was just this experience of Self. Capital “S”. Just the Self of all. That the Self can do to the Self. It’s just what it is, I’m not unexplainable deal, it’s just how it is. And that… And then right at the same time I saw Jesus, his back to me. Like just kind of staring in a maelstrom and not trying to explain it and not trying to rationalize it, but just stepping up and fucking being awesome and being of service. And it was just like, “Dude, I wanna be like that. I wanna be that guy.” And I wanna serve, I wanna be down, I wanna be that. So that was the answer. I was like, “We’re the answer to that.” And we’re that part of God that’s incarnate and as our hearts blow open to, be of service.
0:13:05 DB: And so then, in this experience, and I had… I actually grew up Protestant, I rejected Christianity at age of 13, basically on its own terms of, “God so loved the world.” Like why did he send His one and only son to this one spot. What about the Chinese? And it didn’t make any sense, obviously, in its own logic. But in the mystical vision, you saw like, “Oh, of course, here’s this profound divine reality that all the religious traditions are pointing at and when you don’t take them literally and make idols out of their beliefs and symbols, but let them be open to that mystery that this is what they’re pointing at and really embraced them like, my granddad, Dr. Bronner’s vision of the All-One-God-Faith, our label and that he dedicated his life to, that the soap is really there more to sell the label than vice versa. And he dedicated all his energies and profits to promoting a world that understood the transcendent unity across ethnic and religious divides.
0:14:14 DB: And the labels, while sometimes confusing and certainly were to me growing up and really didn’t understand or grab what it was all about, in that moment, completely did and really appreciated his mission and insight. And for him, he had the ovens of the Holocaust behind him that claimed his parents. He came from a German-Jewish soap making family. For him, he saw the next Holocaust in the nuclear armed world as we’re gonna all die if we don’t realize that transcendent unity. So, the experience has really enabled me to appreciate and understand and basically take on the mission of my granddad.
0:15:01 DB: And, in terms of psychedelic medicine, that understanding that these sacramental allies are the key to really helping that experience. And not that there’s not other ways to get there and have these experiences, but certainly for me, in my path, they’ve been essential and for many. And I think are pretty crucial for the Western mindset and how busy we all are. A lot of us have the time to put in the 10 years of hard meditative practice to get there or intensive prayer. These are all valid paths but… And actually, they really do need to be adopted as practices alongside the medicine path for those experiences that really become enduring traits. And I know, Albert Hofmann was a big believer in meditation and LSD as an adjunct to a meditative practice. But nonetheless, that the medicines are crucial, and so… That awakening. There’s many levels, I guess, to how it helped orientate me in relation to Dr. Bronner’s as a company and my grandfather as a person.
0:16:16 DB: But obviously, that ecological awakening that we’re all interconnected in understanding the prodigal child that humanity is that we’ve disconnected ourselves and alienated ourselves from our natural mother and need to restore that connection and act in accordance with that understanding. And the way we embody that in Dr. Bronner’s is all things that we produce and consume are made from the earth. They’re made from raw materials. They’re made by people. How we produce those materials, especially agriculturally… Are we producing them in a way that is replicating a natural ecosystem, is regenerating soil health, elevating ecosystem health, and if you look at a natural ecosystem, there is no chemical synthetic fertilizer inputs or pesticides. It’s all a regenerative system. And we need to transition our farming practices to that.
0:17:28 DB: The most immediate way we can do that is obviously through our dietary choice and understanding that our plates are our farm and our fork is a pitchfork and our knife is a butchering knife. And what kind of farm… We’re all responsible for a section of the garden. And what does that farm look like? What does that garden look like? And if you just default to the machines that you know, then just buy like people do unconsciously and we all are. It’s hard to be conscious, but with the help of these allies we can get these insights and then be responsible to them and make choices that reward the farmers doing it right, who are being responsible stewards and custodians of the land, and of the animals that they’re raising, and of their workers.
0:18:17 DB: And that’s… What’s so crucial is that everything we produce is got a labor component, some human labor, some farmers, workers were involved in making that, and was that labor respected or was it exploited? That really informs Dr. Bronner’s all their supply chains, a major supply chains and that’s primarily coconut, olive palm and mint oil, all have really cool stories. Basically, most materials are bought on the commodities market, you’re just buying from brokers based on price and spec. You have no visibility into where they’re coming from, what producing region, what’s the conditions involved. And so adopting the, what’s called the Fair Trade and Organic.
0:19:06 DB: So fair trade is basically about establishing direct trading relationships with the farming communities that are producing what you’re buying, and entering in a long-term partnership based on respect, and basically going to market and partnership and not playing off different farming regions against each other, and just basically in a race to the bottom as far as price, and just leading to abysmal labor practices and environmental practices and… So anyway, so that’s one way the kind of psychedelic experience… It’s not automatic, but it really helped me pursue a path of investigation and coming to understand just all the implications involved in producing and consuming goods and services, and that our soap company that we can leverage in this really pragmatic practical way, to show how you can produce soap and food and anything else in a way that does restore the earth, respect the Earth and everyone involved, all the livelihoods involved are respected and are sustainable, and they’re sending their kids to school.
0:20:20 DB: And it’s not a… The product isn’t going to hell and back to get to the shelf. And then just the other, I guess, major… And of course, we treat our employees here at our headquarters and where we manufacture soap in a great way. But the other big initiative is that we cap our salaries at five times the lowest paid employee. So me and my brother and other executives make no more than five times the lowest paid warehouse position. And all profits we don’t need for the business, as far as developing business in different ways, we dedicate to the charities and causes we believe in. And that’s… We have a few main issue areas: Income inequality is a major one, animal welfare and promoting a more plant-based diet, and regenerative organic agriculture is a huge one for us.
0:21:23 DB: But then integrating these psychedelic allies, Cannabis and psychedelics, into the American global culture and enabling people to have access and guidance in responsible relationships and use is a key initiative for the company. So as we’ve grown… When my granddad died in ’97, and my dad and mom and Uncle Ralph had… Dad Jim, mom Judy and Uncle Ralph, who had been running the companies through the ’90s… And it really set the company on a sound financial footing. And my dad is the main moral inspiration for me and my brother. And he really… My granddad, Dr. Bronner, was amazing in many ways, but he was not a good father. And basically, my dad’s mom had died when he was two, and my granddad was called on his mission to save the world and was pretty much absent, and my Dad and Uncle Ralph grew up in a series of foster homes and…
0:22:28 DB: So my dad had wanted nothing to do with my granddad’s more cosmic vision, but was all about family and community and taking care of people right in front of you, and just was an amazing force in our lives. And right before my dad died, and he died a year after my granddad… And they had reconciled and worked through all their stuff. But when my dad died, right before… The week before he died, he oversaw, along with my mom and Uncle Ralph, the transfer of 1,000 acres of land in East County, San Diego, to the Boys and Girls Club. And this is in… My dad was always very involved in different youth programs that had benefited him tremendously in his life. And that land grant, that land was worth something like a third of our total value at the time, and really set the example for what we are as a company. And so at that point, we were making $5 million, I think was our revenue, and now this year we’re gonna probably cross $125 million.
0:23:36 PA: Oh, my gosh.
0:23:38 DB: But no matter how big we get, the compensation is set at that five to one. So last year we gave away close to $8 million dollars. So that $8 million’s spread across all these different issue areas. But, for the last few election cycles, we’ve been significant contributors to different ballot measures to reform Cannabis and Cannabis prohibition.
0:24:08 PA: Well, speaking of that, I’ll just quick… I just voted “Yes” to Marijuana legalization in Michigan. I’m actually from Michigan, and that’s on the ballot in this election, so thank you.
0:24:14 DB: Oh, yeah. So we’re giving firepower to the Michigan effort this year. Yeah.
0:24:19 PA: Thank you, I appreciate that. That’s incredible.
0:24:21 DB: Yeah, man. So it’s just… We’re living through such a revolution and hopefully this will really assist us to wake up and care about and solve these massive socio-environmental problems we’re facing. And actually, that’s kind of part of the next battle is, as Cannabis legalizes the industry, it’s just becoming such a… It’s all about profit and just really keeping the sacramental, medicinal essence of the medicine at the forefront. And one of the problems of legalization, or one of the main ones in California and elsewhere is, the regulations really favor large indoor grows, these big corporate grows and entities, and the ecosystem of small family farmers, growing sustainably organically outdoors, are being wiped out. The regs are really burdensome. And so we’re actually partnering… So what we do in our different supply chain… So we have our sister company that produces our coconut oil in Sri Lanka that grew out of a tsunami relief project, and we work with coconut farmers on fair-trade terms and produce sustainable, organic coconut oil. We do the same with palm oil in Ghana, working with small-holder farmers and…
0:25:48 DB: Working with them to implement regenerative organic practices, and actually, we’re now integrating doing what’s called Dynamic AgForestry, where you integrate complementary crops and we’re doing cocoa, banana, cost flow with the palm and that’s different kind of canopy heights. And you got ground cover and bushes and tall, medium, high trees and you basically double the yields and the income and you minimize weed and pest pressure when you do this right. And then our olive oil’s really cool and that comes from primarily Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, but we also source a minority from a Jewish farm on Israeli side and an Arab Christian project on the Israeli side.
0:26:27 DB: So we have Jewish, Christian, Muslim olive oil in our soap. In all these cases, in a regenerate Organic Fair Trade way, so we were like, “Okay well, who in the Cannabis space is doing what we do with these different crops?” ‘Cause now Cannabis is basically a flower and it’s rapidly is becoming another commodity flower and all the problems that go along with that. So who’s partnering with these small farmers and partnering with them and telling their story? And getting the educating consumers to pay a premium for the righteous medicine? And we identify Flow Kana, is a really great company in California and they’re working in Emerald Triangle. So, one of our main projects now is to introduce a line and it will be under Dr. Bronner’s and we’re still figuring it out. It might be like David Bronner’s sacred ally or something like that.
0:27:15 PA: Cool, very cool.
0:27:16 DB: But it’s basically a platform to educate a certification that we’re behind called Sun and Earth Certificate, I mean us and many others called Sun and Earth Certified and that will communicate that the medicine’s been produced in outdoor sun-grown organically in a way that all the labor, all the workers involved were treated fairly, and it, this parallel is another effort when in the natural channel, where we’re partnered with Patagonia and leading soil health organizations like Demeter and Rodale. And Demeter holds about dynamic standard. Rodale’s the father of the organic movement and then some high animal welfare orgs and Fair Labor orgs to launch the regenerative organic standard. So that’s kinda has covers everything that’s not schedule one and because Cannabis is a schedule one, we can’t call it organic ’cause it’s not federally allowed so we’re gonna do the Sun and Earth Certified will be the parallel in the Cannabis space.
0:28:16 PA: One thing that I just wanna bring to attention is your emphasis, Dr. Bronner’s emphasis, and everything that you’re talking about is really about rebuilding the social fabric and with what you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast in terms of all these issues that we’re confronting, are a direct result from us feeling disconnected or separate or isolated from the earth, from community, from our food, from whatever else it might be. And so in rebuilding that social fabric. One question that I wanted to just have you further clarify is, what role, specifically, have you played with MAPS so far? So, just so our listeners know, within this context, what’s been your relationship to MAPS, and just the general psychedelic renaissance up to this point in time?
0:29:09 DB: Yeah, well I met Rick Doblin, the founder of MAPS, at the burn 10 or so years ago, and had known about MAPS, but was at that time, we were primarily engaged on the industrial medical Cannabis fronts as was MAPS. MAPS was trying to break the government monopoly. The only Marijuana that could be ever used in a study came from this University of Mississippi, grow under ElSohly, Professor ElSohly, and it was this horrible medicine and definitely was compromising the studies that were being green-lighted by Nida which generally were… Yeah, it was just a bad situation. And so Rick was fighting that fight. In addition to the project of bringing MDMA through FDA approval process, but that’s just really strategic. MAPS overall mission is to integrate all of psychedelic medicines in the American and global culture and MDMA is a really… It’s a very strategic decision to focus on a medicine that has in a way the least baggage or less baggage than others.
0:30:24 DB: And treats has such a dramatic therapeutic effect for such a debilitating condition that no other medicines are really touching. As far as treatment-resistant PTSD, and then also that the cohort of patients, involves many veterans and firefighters and policemen and just powerful allies to have in this project of integrating psychedelic medicines generally. So yeah, I just always really appreciate it and really appreciated Rick for really working the system and not as much as I like how Rick and MAPS bridge the divide, the cultural divide. I mean they’re not trying to throw the hippies out and Rick does wear suits, but they’re not trying to police the general movement but also at the same time are very much about respecting that as much as things do get politicized in our regulatory process, that there is an integrity to it. That if you can really show meaningful data and research results and are persistent, like a full-on Jedi that Rick is, and that there are allies inside these agencies and that we can form alliances and really help move these medicines through formal regulatory approval process. And Rick does have this vision of healing the culture in a way that the cultural split of the 60s that…
0:32:14 DB: In that the culture the larger culture is integrated all the gifts of the counter-culture and all the major movements have made incredible progress. Not that it’s not much further to go but feminism, gay rights, civil rights, environmental movement, yoga, meditation, natural childbirth. A lot of these… Hospice care, a lot of these movements are now pretty well integrated into the larger mainstream but psychedelic medicine is kind of the last and arguably the most powerful gift of the counter-culture that hasn’t been integrated but that integration, it’s like really poetic that it’s healing the trauma of the soldiers sent to fight these wars. As misguided as they may be but healing this trauma and bridging and healing the cultural divide in a pretty remarkable way.
0:33:14 DB: So in addition to that I actually just before this podcast, I was on the phone with Dr. Martin Polanco and he’s the legendary founder of Crossroads which is an Ibogaine clinic or was an Ibogaine clinic in Tijuana treating mostly opiate addicts with great success, and he was noticing that the vets that were coming to the clinic who were addicted, that on the other side of his treatment, and it’s a holistic treatment. Ibogaine itself is a very powerful medicine but it needs to be part of a much more holistic fitness and meditation and diet program. But that the veterans that were addicts that he treated successful, also he found being cured of their trauma or their PTSD and he is now pivoted to focus full-time on vets and PTSD and particular working with Special Forces who are bearing the brunt of modern warfare and are the most traumatized in suffered as epidemic rate.
0:34:28 DB: Alcoholism and suicide and brain trauma injury. And I was off the phone with him and I met some of his… His board is composed of former SEAL Team Six members who’ve gone through his treatment and are just dedicated to spreading this healing to the brothers and sisters. It is just really powerful the… Just unusual allies in the healing that these medicines can have not only in terms of healing individuals, but of this larger social and cultural traumas and generational traumas and hopefully help us all collectively awaken and heal ourselves and just be better people, parents, friends, guardians custodians. Anyways, yeah.
0:35:25 PA: Yeah, no, I love this. Because I think this is directly in line with what motivates a lot of people who are in the psychedelic space, but who also are in the emerging public-benefit corporation space and you mentioned a few of those companies like Patagonia but I was just wondering if you could speak a little bit more to that. From your perspective, and running a corporation that’s doing a hundred and… I think you said $125 million a year, you donated over $8 million last year. What’s your… So to say, “what’s your take on where we are right now with public-benefit corporations, in terms of how popular they are or how popular they are not, and what’s your kind of hope for how those will develop in the future?
0:36:19 DB: Yeah, so I guess a public-benefit corporation, is a relatively new corporate form and that’s a road risen in the last five years or so. And basically a for-profit, whether is C or S corp is… Has one and only purpose and that is to maximize a fiduciary return of shareholders and if for example, Dr. Bronner’s had even a minority share holder who had 1% of our shares, they could sue… As a traditional C corporate or S corp, they could sue us for giving away all that money and they could just say, look, that is not maximizing my fiduciary return, there’s no way you can justify a million bucks to MAPS as maximizing my fiduciary return. Maybe 10 grand max. You get your cause marketing bang and that’s it. You need to be giving another $990,000, and we could be sued in basically forced to stop. Whereas a Public Benefit Corp adopting that form as we have enables you to set up purposes of the corporation other than maximizing fiduciary return and basically they’re called Social Benefit purposes.
0:37:42 DB: And you could say that I know there’s like a public benefit office supply company, forget what they are called off-hand in the Bay Area and they give 100% of their profits to kind of homeless related services and community services and there’s nothing anybody can do about that with… Under that public benefit corporate structure. So it’s basically a way of… And then the other thing it’ll do is conversely if Dr. Bronner’s is ever forced to sale and we have no intention of doing so but if there was some catastrophic event or just for whatever reason we had to sell significant equity even a majority stake, the fact is is that we could then if that majority owner, a new majority owner started to do stuff that was off mission, or off what our purposes are, we could actually litigate and force them to get back on mission. So it’s this really powerful kinda hybrid of a non-profit and a for-profit it’s kinda called it a social venture structure.
0:38:56 DB: So now but a public benefit in and of itself does not guarantee anything. You can be a Public Benefit Corp and just kinda look like you’re cool but not actually really doing anything. But nonetheless, there are a lot of real deal public-benefit corporations that are incorporating and companies like Patagonia, are completely legitimate. They are, like us very involved at the farming level, farming community level of the raw material production, are constantly innovating. They have an open source policy on their IEP. Like whatever new environmental breakthrough they have, they share it with their competitors, which is MAPS model. And just you know, MAPS has a for-profit benefit subsidiary wholly-owned by the C3 nonprofit, but MAPS among other things, is very open about any of our IP and transparent to a fault. So obviously we’re in a pretty dire moment on a lot of fronts, but this is definitely one of those signs I hope is this emerging new class of corporations that hopefully, basically if… When you think about, Okay, I’m gonna have tea in the morning. So who’s making… What’s the public benefit corp making the righteous tea and who’s making the righteous soap and who’s got the righteous medicine?
0:40:44 DB: And just really identifying the brands and corporations that are incorporated in a way that they’re really giving back in the way that they’re making or producing the products or services, are maximizing the social benefits and not just lining the shareholder pockets.
0:41:05 PA: So one thing you spoke to earlier on the same note, was the rise of corporate interest in Cannabis. And how there are all these big indoor grow-areas and how Cannabis like other things within our kind of late stage capitalist system are, is just being overly commodified and being sold to the highest bidder, so to say. And you likely are aware at least to some degree, of some of the conversations that have been evolving in the psychedelic space. Where people express similar concerns about Well, if we’re just legalizing psychedelics to let Peter Thiel, for example who’s an early investor in Compass Pathways, which is a UK-based startup. To let him make a bunch of money. Then what’s the point of legalizing it anyway. I’d love to hear you talk about, based on your experience running a public-benefit corporation, and also based on your experience, both with psychedelic medicine but also directly collaborating with MAPS. What role could public-benefit corporations play in helping to integrate psychedelics responsibly so that they don’t become just another commodified tool, but that they maintain this sense of sacredness or righteousness, alongside legalization.
0:42:26 DB: Yeah. I think that’s definitely a major concern and I’m a big believer in the MAPS non-profit model. As far as Compass, and the for-profit, it remains to be seen, but Bronner’s is a for-profit entity and it’s not necessarily the case that a for-profit will be lame and otherwise undermining the integrity of the experience and the healing and the medicine but it’s definitely a risk. We are supporters of Usona. Which is a non-profit entity in the Psilocybin space. And just having Psilocybin available from a non-profit is obviously a big check on any for-profits also in the Psilocybin space as far as you can’t be too much of a price premium versus the non-profit, obviously, why would anyone pay substantially more for similar medicine.
0:43:42 DB: And vibrationally I think there’s… Many people have preference for a non-profit model, but at the same time, I don’t wanna necessarily say that for-profits are inherently problematic, they are problematic, but also they are effective in delivering goods and services, and it’s problematic as it can be potentially. We look at things like Ibogaine and others. Obviously we want as many psychedelic medicines brought through regulatory process as possible, and we don’t wanna see a Big Pharma of price gouging and abusing these medicines and… But so I’m not as necessarily concerned. I know George Goldsmith, and Compass, and I understand the concerns around it, around what they’re doing but I’m reserving judgment and wanna see ultimately what they’re doing. And I’m not sure, what is Third Wave? How are you guys incorporated, is it a non-profit, a public-benefit or…
0:45:17 PA: Yeah, that’s a great question so when I started the website maybe three years ago, I just did it as a hobby project and incorporated it as an LLC. And then it’s only within the last year, year and a half that with the resurgence of interest in psychedelics, particularly with Michael Pollan’s new book…
0:45:36 DB: Yeah.
0:45:37 PA: That we’ve come to a crossroads about actually needing to decide, “Okay, do we wanna go the non-profit or the for-profit route?” So specifically for Third Wave which is the website, this podcast, we have online content, we’re starting to do event series in places like New York, San Francisco, and LA. The focus ultimately is on the community, building the community, and re-investing in the community. And within the community it’s largely around education. It’s largely around education and literacy. And so since the focus is education and literacy, we’ve decided to go non-profit route. As I was speaking to you about a little bit before we hopped on the air, we also are now running a retreat center in Amsterdam and that is a separate entity.
0:46:24 PA: So Third Wave is a non-profit entity in United States, Synthesis is a for-profit entity in the Netherlands. And I’m a founder of Third Wave and a co-founder of Synthesis, two different teams, two different missions, but there’s obviously clear alignment and collaboration between the two. And this is a conversation that we’ve been having internally at Synthesis is, “What direction do we wanna take this?” And my first inclination is to become a public-benefit corporation. Now I don’t know the logistics of that in being a Dutch Corporation so I don’t know if that’s only available to United States corporations, for example. But this is something that as an ethos, I think is incredibly important for the early players in the psychedelic space who are creating aboveground, for-profit things.
0:47:17 PA: When we go just beyond MAPS, we look at things like Compass. There’s also this Life Sciences group called at ATAI, which is run by a guy named Christian Angermayer, Peter Thiel is an early investor, they’re based out of Munich, Germany and they have $25 million to invest in venture capital, money into psychedelic research, essentially. And so from my perspective, it’s really, really important that the early companies who adopt a for-profit framework for psychedelic medicine, commit to developing as a public-benefit corporation from the get go because that will set the standard for a lot of other companies that come in afterwards. And this is a conversation that I’ve been tossing around with Bob Jesse, who wrote that letter about Open Science. And I think that’s one thing that I am personally thinking a lot about is, How could a fund be set up, or something from a venture capital perspective by social impact investors that incentivizes new companies who are coming into the psychedelic space to become public-benefit corporations?” Instead of only focusing on fiduciary responsibility and for-profit returns for investors who might not have these larger motives that many of us have in the psychedelic space, which is healing, not just money so to say.
0:48:41 DB: Yeah, absolutely. That’s the trade-off that for-profit obviously, you can raise tremendous amounts of equity and capital, working capital much easier than in a non-profit model which is relying on donations. But we are successfully doing so with MAPS, but that’s the trade-off is that without a public-benefit form, you can be potentially whipsawed by non-mission aligned investors in a way that’s not great. So yeah, that’s… I’m definitely wanting to see that public-benefit form take hold on any for-profit in this space so I think it’s paramount. There’s other things to be concerned about like aggressive protection of any IP that for-profit may take which is kinda standard practice in for-profit pharma companies is just aggressively litigating and protecting everything about how they’ve developed their medicines, and products, and all that.
0:50:04 DB: And I don’t know all of the ins and outs of the early days of Ibogaine but I understand in the ’80s, there was this kinda ridiculous super-litigious back and forth between different entities that had been formed and just kind of all together made progress impossible. So yeah, so definitely, hopefully we’re gonna not see any bad actors in the psychedelic medicine space and one thing about the movement is that it is a pretty… There are a lot of powerful stakeholders, and hopefully that can hold companies to account and enable ultimately high integrity, high vibration healing, and context in use of the medicines.
0:51:00 PA: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think when I was speaking to Bob about this, he had just mentioned Game Theory and Behavioral Economics. In other words, “How do you create this concept of co-operators and this concept of defectors?” And The co-operators are the ones who are more or less in the in-group who receive certain benefits. And I think there’s been a lot of work done up front in the psychedelic space with cultural influencers. People like Tim Ferriss for example, who are now involved in I think the most recent project is the PSFC, the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative. It’s raised millions of dollars to donate to CIAS, and MAPS, and Usona. And I think, speaking of Usona, that’s another really key organization that really isn’t spoken a lot about publicly. They keep a very low profile. But Bill Linton who is their CEO or Executive Director, who founded Promega, is another figure of influence in this space. So from what I can tell, I’m personally very optimistic about kinda what’s developing and obviously, I’m also, within my own agency and autonomy what I can control and what we can control, Third Wave, and with what we’re doing at Synthesis, I’m very much oriented towards open source and public benefit.
0:52:29 PA: And I think this also speaks to a lot of stuff that you were just discussing earlier in our conversation, is this isn’t just about psychedelics, just like it’s not just about meditation or it’s not just about yoga, or it’s not just about urban agriculture, or farm to table. The larger concept of what we’re developing and building is a culture of healing and a culture of where people can just be themselves, and it can be healthy and actually have the tools and the knowledge to do that. And that to me is what’s most motivating is how do we give people the tools so they can heal themselves on a mind-body-spirit level. And that’s not an easy undertaking.
0:53:18 DB: Yeah, well I mean I’m really psyched to hear you say that and appreciate that you guys are in the Psilocybin space and with that ethic, I think that’s really powerful. And, yeah, we do need to set the example and communicate with the patient population about the kind of really high level, high vibration providers and healing centers, and obviously that’s an issue in Ayahuasca and in Ibogaine, and these different treat… There’s a spectrum of legitimate operators holding the highest vibration and really having a holistic optimal program versus more fly-by-night, get-rich-quick operators and being able to effectively communicate who’s who is key. And as well, especially with natural sources of the medicine like Peyote and Ibogaine and Ayahuasca, making sure it’s sustainable and having programs in place to sustainably harvest and cultivate these medicines is also crucial. So, yeah.
0:54:39 PA: It absolutely is. Well, we have about five minutes left before we’ll wrap up. I know you gotta get going soon, so I’d love to just wrap up our show by just hearing a little bit about your future plans with your involvement with MAPS, with Dr. Bronner’s, what’s on the horizon in the next six to 12 to 18 months for the organizations that you’re involved with or for you personally even.
0:55:08 DB: Yeah, well, I guess the regenerative organic standard, we’re in the pilot phase of that with a lot of good high-level farms and brands participating. And that pilot phase should wrap up some time next year, and then we’ll be in a full commercial launch mode. And hopefully we’ll make quite a big impact as it’s kind of like the one ring to rule them all, rather than having different animal welfare and fair labor and soil health certifications. It’s a single certification regenerative organic that’s easy for consumers to look for on store shelves and looking for that regenerative organic certification will just do a lot. It’s a truly holistic, sustainable production, addressing not just soil health, not just animal welfare, not just fair labor but all three.
0:56:12 DB: And then similarly, in the Cannabis space Sun and Earth certified and really launching that program. And hopefully seeing that get real traction. And then with MAPS we’re on track, we’re moving MDMA through FDA approval process, we’re about to start, or we have started phase three. And that’s gonna wrap up I guess sometime in 2021, and hopefully we’ll have legal medicine by 2021-2022. I mean all signs are that we will. And so, that should open the floodgates of really reducing the stigma. The cultural stigma is rapidly evaporating, but obviously we have further to go. But FDA approval will be a massive event, and I think really open the gates for other psychedelic medicines to come through.
0:57:12 DB: And, yeah, I guess we are also actively involved in a Peyote restoration project. And there’s an effort called the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative that involves different… The major Native American church groups and Riverstyx Foundation, which is Cody Swift, who’s an amazing individual, and I highly recommend interviewing him someday. He’s been a major donor to pretty much all the major groups we’ve been talking about. And so that’s effort to figure out sustainable wild craft or harvesting of Peyote, which right now is just in a really dire situation. And then also the sustainable cultivation model. And then Ibogaine, just really having experienced that medicine first-hand with a friend…
0:58:16 PA: Recently? Was that something recently you did?
0:58:19 DB: That was last October, yeah so last year, pretty much, was this incredible powerful…
0:58:24 PA: Yeah. What was that like?
0:58:27 DB: Wow, it’s the pretty much the most powerful psychedelic experience I’ve had. I mean I’ve had some big ones, but definitely in the last two years, it really, I guess, got much more serious about the medicine path and sorting things out in my life. But, yeah, just really, that went through the life review, just kinda gravid fire colonel situations in life where just getting that 360 God’s eye view of exactly how that went, how people felt and how oblivious or whatever and self-involved take you had on the situation just seeing exactly how that went and your responsibility and culpability and feeling it. And as soon as you’re fucking on it, and Oh God, and then you’re onto the next one, and this is that rapid grueling process. But then also checking in with friends and families. Smiles and laughter and especially my dad, and I was working with a witchel trained shaman. So I was kinda getting a lot of witchel approach, calling in the ancestors and calling in my dad and my granddad and just had a really profound atonement with my dad just and his blessing and His love and just in a really powerful way.
0:59:55 DB: Also my granddad just kinda having a vision of him and like the earth with all the life artists and activists fighting the machine. And how’s it gonna go. But feeling alliances plugging in from extra dimensional cosmic. Who knows what. And just the download of this the incredible genius and intelligence of the Spear of world. Like just kinda intersecting like, Okay, here’s the karmic read of me and it’s just overwhelming and how dense in efficient and humorous, the information is. Or just like so subtle and fucking unbelievable.
1:00:41 PA: I’ve never tried Ibogaine, I’m a bit intimidated, I’m kinda like…
1:00:44 DB: Yeah. I mean it’s definitely.
1:00:45 PA: Quite an opiate thing I’m like but it seems like it’s an intense, intense…
1:00:49 DB: Well, you know what? I’m I guess here to say that a lot of the trip accounts are coming from people really strung out in a really, really bad spot in their lives and that it’s not… I mean it’s a grueling experience, but it’s… As a psycho-spiritual tool, it’s not that much more grueling than Ayahuasca or high dose medicines of other plant medicines or high dose LSD, they’re all powerful medicines and I think… I don’t really… There’s differences, but ultimately I think it’s certain setting. And what you gotta work on is the primary variable. And I would highly recommend Ibogaine as a… Just real powerful. It’s something I wanna do I thought annually, but I’m coming up on my annual anniversary and find myself not…
1:01:51 PA: Having cold feet a little bit.
1:01:51 DB: Yeah. Yeah but when it lines up, I definitely intend to keep doing it as the spirit will manifest it. And yeah, so I would just not be afraid of the experience. I remember I was on the same shoes you were, I was like, “Yeah, I’ll never do that one,” but I had a friend show up in a hot nose dive and just kinda went through with him and it turned out to be that that medicine was crucial for me. And I didn’t have any acute addiction or trauma. Just running the mill stuff, normal, whatever man to sort out and get right with so its… Yeah, so I totally recommend it as a real powerful medicine.
1:02:52 PA: Well, on the podcast we did before, this was with Elizabeth Bast. Don’t know if you know Elizabeth, but she’s in the northern California area and practices a lot with Iboga. And so we had a great podcast where we dug into all things Iboga just a couple weeks ago. That was… I know some basics about it, but I’m not super knowledgeable but yeah, it’s something…
1:03:16 DB: Yeah. You know black panther did a little… It’s a little obviously cheesy and superficial, but the plant medicine in Black Panther was definitely on the Iboga-tip ancestral plane and it’s pretty cool. It’s Starting to penetrate mainstream consciousness, and culture.
1:03:38 PA: Totally. Right now we gotta wrap, you gotta run and we’re comming up on an hour now. So, David, I just wanna thank you again for taking the time and just again, take a chance to acknowledge the contributions that you and Dr. Bronner’s have made. I really believe in the vision that you set out and I think the example that you set from an organizational culture perspective, with Dr. Bronner’s it could even be the most lasting impression that you make on culture beyond just contributions to psychedelic medicine. So thank you for all your work and I appreciate your time being here in the podcast.
1:04:13 DB: Yeah right on, thank you, Paul, it’s been a pleasure and… Yeah. Awesome, going deep on my favorite subject.