By Ken Stone
Brad McLaughlin says the cannabis community can save the world. It starts with his plan for a border wall made of hemp — a species of cannabis made legal in December.
The CEO of BudTrader.com, headquartered in Encinitas, thinks a hempcrete barrier can pass Congress and pay for itself via a federal marijuana tax. He also pledges lowering veterans unemployment and crippling drug cartels.
Oh, and it paves the way for nationwide cannabis legalization and banking reform.
Despite such grandiose ambitions, McLaughlin is getting buy-in from people in high places.
On Friday, former White House strategist Steve Bannon backed the concept.
“I’m obsessed with the hempcrete,” Bannon said in Arizona. “I think this plant has got tremendous entrepreneurial aspects to it, and it’s innovative. We’re not sitting there saying, ‘Hey, just a concrete wall or just a steel barrier.’ It has to be advanced technology.”
Bannon is taking a different tack on financing, however, supporting a private GoFundMe effort launched by Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran severely wounded in Iraq. (It’s raised $20 million of a $1 billion goal.)
Kolfage is teaming with others, including former Navy SEAL and Blackwater USA security CEO Erik Prince, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former congressman from Colorado Tom Tancredo with a website called We Build The Wall. (Site reps didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
McLaughlin says he planted the seed 10 months ago with then Rep. Dana Rohrabacher — the Coronado-born Republican representing Orange County who sought recreational marijuana legalization nationwide.
“I first spoke to Congressman Rohrabacher about my hemp wall idea in April of 2018,” McLaughlin said in a Times of San Diego interview. “He encouraged me to continue researching it and to publish a white paper detailing my plan.”
Rohrabacher warned him that major corporations would oppose the concept, he said.
“But … we won’t defeat evil with money but with our ideas,” said McLaughlin, who turns 35 soon.
So in a series of press releases and stories in marijuana-friendly outlets, the “Craigslist of weed” founder is pushing his proposal.
He says erecting a nearly 2,000-mile border wall with industrial hemp materials would:
- Employ 36,000 U.S. veterans, cutting the unemployment rate for veterans by 10 percent.
- Secure nationwide federal legalization of cannabis for medical patients and veterans.
- And cause a 25 percent loss in illegal revenue to drug cartels after complete legalization.
McLaughlin admits that he has a “flare for theatrics with my past publicity stunts,” including offering free marijuana to furloughed federal workers. But he swears “on my mother’s life this isn’t one of those times.”
The world is inching toward a point of no return when it comes to climate change, he says.
“Honey bees were just added to the endangered species list,” he said. “Einstein said if bees became extinct, all life on earth as we know it would end shortly thereafter and we’re dangerously close to this.”
So McLaughlin says he had to act “because of my love for humanity. The quickest way to save the world is through hemp cultivation and industrial hemp applications.”
How to pay for such a wall?
McLaughlin posits a 3 percent federal tax on medical marijuana that he says would raise $4.72 billion.
“I respectfully ask President Trump to take a serious look at our proposal,” McLaughlin said in a statement. “This is no pie-in-the-sky plan either. It’s absolutely possible and I think it’s a bipartisan win as well as a big win for our veterans and the cannabis community.”In September, McLaughlin went to Washington with Rohrabacher to discuss cannabis reform with elected officials and members of Congress — and briefly met Trump at a fundraising dinner.
“I told a group of Republican Lawmakers that cannabis can solve every one of the countries problems,” he said. “A former congressman from Texas told me to solve the border wall issue using cannabis. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.”
His proposal also would fuel employment on the Mexican side of the border as well as buy hemp and other materials from Mexico to stimulate that nation’s economy.
McLaughlin concedes that his plan hasn’t reached Trump’s desk. But he also sent it to Sen. Kamala Harris (with no reply yet).
The hemp industry is leery, however.
Erica McBride Stark, executive director of the National Hemp Association, calls the hempcrete wall idea a “very interesting concept.”
But she said via email: “I’m not sure it would be a good material because I suspect that you could drill through it a lot easier than traditional concrete.”
McLaughlin hasn’t contacted her group about it, she said.
In any case, Stark said: “I’ve never asked the board for a collective opinion on the topic [of a hempcrete border wall]. Personally speaking … I am opposed to it.”
Rohrabacher still carries water for the plan, though.
On Feb. 7, he tweeted: “Kudos to @StephenBannon @erikprince @realDonaldTrump: A HEMP-BASED CONCRETE BORDER WALL a win for USA security & taxpayers, farmers, veterans & environmentalists. Bold thinking! It’s affordable & will work.”
He linked to the Oct. 1 white paper.
Kudos to @StephenBannon @erikprince @realDonaldTrump: A HEMP-BASED CONCRETE BORDER WALL a win for USA security & taxpayers, farmers, veterans & environmentalists. Bold thinking! It’s affordable & will work. See @bud_trader white paper: https://t.co/qg66OfSxi5
— Dana Rohrabacher (@DanaRohrabacher) February 7, 2019
In two interviews — including one during the 35-day federal shutdown — McLaughlin shared details.
Times of San Diego: Tell me the chronology of your involvement with the hempcrete idea.
I presented my idea to Dana at a dinner on 4/20/2018 prior to the BudTrader Ball. In September, when I was in D.C. advocating for the farm bill and cannabis federal legalization, I told a former congressman from Texas that cannabis and hemp can solve every one of the country’s problems.
He told me to solve the “wall issue” with weed. That’s when I presented my idea for the hemp wall to him and other Republican members of Congress during an RNCC charity dinner. After the dinner, Congressman Rohrabacher encouraged me to publish my research and my white paper.
What is Rohrabacher doing now — working as a lobbyist or for some cannabis-related concern?
Dana is enjoying civilian life. I sent him an offer to be on BudTrader’s advisory board, which he is considering. He’s hinted at starting a consulting firm.
Will you or Rohrabacher become involved more with the Bannon/Kobach effort? How so?
If asked to participate, I would, on the conditions that federal cannabis legalization and safe access to cannabis for our honored veterans be part of the deal.
Bannon and Kobach are still thinking like “rich guys” trying to figure out how to privatize and pay for the construction of the wall. My plan calls for a 3 percent federal cannabis tax to pay for it. Problem solved, but we’re talking about government politics which means it will take 100 years for something to happen.
The amount of hemp needed to produce the hemp border wall would remove millions of mega tons of carbon from the atmosphere and offset the emissions of approximately 50 million vehicles, which is the quickest way to stop climate change.
Bannon and Kobach are thinking about it from a political standpoint. If they want wider bipartisan support, they need to focus on all the benefits of growing that much hemp and how millions of Americans would have safe access to cannabis, which means less opiate use, less DUIs, more tax revenue for schools and infrastructure.
Since Houuse Speaker Nancy Pelosi says no to any kind of wall, what are your odds of getting hempcrete plan realized?
Nancy Pelosi hasn’t seen my plan yet, but I’d bet my pinky finger if she read our white paper and research and understood it, she’d support it. I submitted my hemp wall paper and research to California Sen. Kamala Harris’ office but we’ve yet to get any kind of response.
How much would a hempcrete wall cost per mile?
Our proposal would cost around $5 billion to complete approximately 2,000 miles of hemp wall, $5 billion [divided by] 2,000 = $2.5 million per mile as opposed to government proposed cost of $8 billion [divided by] 2,000 or $4 million a mile.
Anyone inside the White House pushing for a hempcrete wall?
I don’t have a contact inside the White House, but given the opportunity to present my concept and research to the White House I believe it would receive a lot of support.
Besides Bannon and Kobach, who are your high-profile congressional or industry allies?
Rohrabacher is our biggest supporter. We sent our white paper and research to Rand Paul’s office and Kamala Harris’ office, but no one but Dana has come out and supported our idea.
We’ve received a lot of support from veterans groups like MJ Meds for Vets. Leaders in the cannabis/hemp community helped compile the research for our white paper. We’ve received nothing but support from the cannabis community.
What specs are you using for wall height, depth? Number of hempcrete bricks involved?
Wall height and depth requirements were listed online when the government was taking bids from contractors. I believe it had to be at least 20 feet tall, 6 feet deep (underground) and 3 feet wide. We estimated the amount of concrete needed to build the border wall and hempcrete is extremely similar but lasts longer.
Have you consulted with the National Hemp Association?
We consulted with known hemp experts in the cannabis community. If we grew hemp along the 2,000-mile southern border it would be about 3 million acres of hemp.
That size hemp crop would offset the carbon emissions from 50 million automobiles. Growing hemp removes carbon from the atmosphere and toxins from the soil. It would be the quickest way to stop global warming and the quickest path to clean energy independence.
We would only need to grow hemp on 4 percent of the landmass in the lower 48, or roughly 77 million acres, to meet all the fuel requirements for the entire nation.
Have you consulted with hempcrete or construction materials experts?
Yes, we did. There is not only hempcrete but hemp-based plaster and coating. The foundation wouldn’t be able to be built with hempcrete, but a majority of the wall could be built with hemp-based materials.
Have you consulted with any veterans groups on this idea?
We consulted with a San Diego based nonprofit — MJ Meds for Veterans. They loved the idea of us hiring veterans. They also felt the presence of military veterans would deter drug cartels from attempting to smuggle drugs into the United States.
They also support the part of our proposal that calls for veterans being allowed safe access to cannabis without risk of losing their VA benefits.
Why is federal cannabis legalization essential for this idea?
No one wants to pay for the wall. Congress doesn’t want to pay for it, Mexico doesn’t want to pay for it, so the cannabis community will pay for it via a federal cannabis tax.
Nearly half the country still doesn’t have any form of legal cannabis and neither do our honored veterans. If we can do a deal that allows all U.S. adults to have safe and legal access to cannabis via a 3 percent federal tax, in my opinion that’s a fair tradeoff.
Legalization at the federal level would allow more investments in cannabis companies, equipment, real estate, etc.
It would cripple the Mexican drug cartels, which currently profit from illegal (and low quality) cannabis sales.
It would lower law enforcement costs, health-care costs and disrupt every aspect of business, energy, food, textiles, healthcare and the environment and I predict it would spur a second industrial revolution based on all the potential applications for cannabis and hemp.
Why would Democrats back this plan when they wouldn’t support any other border wall?
Because it ends the shutdown. No one loses. The president doesn’t lose, the Democrats don’t lose, the Republicans don’t lose and the American people are the big winners.
If building a wall out of hemp can stop Mexican drug cartels, take carbon out of our atmosphere, remove toxins from our soil, reverse climate change, lower health-care costs, set the cannabis economy on fire for the next decade, lower violence in both the United States and Mexico, employ our honored veterans and give every adult in the U.S. safe access to cannabis — then I feel that building the wall “OUT OF HEMP” (and tied to a bigger federal cannabis legalization deal) is not only a good thing but should be a mandatory requirement.
Why would DOJ support federal legalization, and how would this change be made?
At this point, the DOJ doesn’t have a choice. The people have spoken. Cannabis legalization is already happening on the state level and it’s only a matter of time before it happens at the federal level (I predict as early as this spring and 100 percent certainty before the 2020 election).
There are some things that the president could do through executive order, like allowing legal cannabis and hemp companies to have access to reliable banking services at FDIC banks.
Most weed businesses still have to deal in cash, which is dangerous and not practical. He could also grant clemency to nonviolent cannabis offenders in federal prison.
But ultimately change would need to be done through Congress and the Senate. The president has already indicated that he would sign a law in regards to cannabis legalization if it made it to his desk.
When I met him in D.C. in September, he said he’s with the “legal” cannabis business owners who are operating within the law and doing things the right way.
How would federal legalization improve BudTrader’s bottom line? Any estimate on how much revenue growth this would mean to your business?
BudTrader would see a jump in registered users on our platform for sure since over one-third of the country would now be free to use our platform. It’s free to use BudTrader, so I’m not so sure we’d see a huge increase in our bottom line.
This isn’t necessarily about money for me or BudTrader. I’ve said no to Wall Street money more times then I can count. This is about saving the world, saving the environment, defeating the drug cartels, the pharmaceutical industry and big oil.
We’re talking about saving people’s lives, like veterans suffering from physical, mental and emotional issues like PTSD. Freshman Congresswoman [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez recently predicted the world could end in less than 12 years. I 100 percent disagree with that statement! Because the cannabis community will save the world in the next five years.
How would you answer critics who might say: This plan is just an imaginative publicity stunt for BudTrader?
Elon Musk talks about saving the world with Tesla and electric vehicles every day. He’s admitted in his Joe Rogan interview that it would take a minimum of 30 years to switch gas automobiles to electric.
My plan would save the world in less than five years. If the president agrees to my proposal, I’ll shut down BudTrader forever so I can finally rest, knowing that the cannabis community saved the world.
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