To celebrate Black History Month, noted hemp and cannabis attorney Scheril Murray Powell, Esq., Former Executive Director for the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists of Florida, CMO of Cannabiziac, and former Director of Federal Affairs for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, offers this reflection.
By Scheril Murray Powell, Esq.
Hundreds of years ago in American history, it was a requirement that landowners plant hemp. More often than not, that hemp was grown by African American enslaved, trafficked people on plantations owned by the forefathers of our great nation and framers of our Constitution.
Then a bit less than a century ago, we entered the period of prohibition where the American People were deprived of the opportunity to benefit from the thousands of uses for hemp. As cannabis activists, we see ourselves as the good guys. We might even go as far as believing ourselves to be “true patriots” for our efforts to legalize and free the plant so that we can restore sustainable practices as well as creating earth friendly alternatives. There is no denying that the work that we are doing with regard to building hemp structures, creating cannabinoid extracts for relief, and developing paper alternatives is good work.
However, as we roll into Black History Month, this line in the song “America, The Beautiful” comes to mind. I interpret the line “And Crown Thy Good with Brotherhood” to mean that if you do good work without the spirit of inclusion and brotherly love then you fall short of the crown. Basically, do not pat yourself on the back, just yet, if you are not executing in a brotherly way that promotes unity, diversity, and equity.
The ancient Greeks identified seven types of love. Among them, philia is an authentic, intimate friendship and brotherly love, and that is what came to mind when I reflected on the line “And Crown Thy Good with Brotherhood.” For the most part, we have succeeded in educating the masses and making knowledge of hemp mainstream. We have also succeeded in legalizing hemp across the nation…from sea to shining sea.
We should be proud of our work as activists…contacting legislators and testifying before Senate Ag Committees and House Ag Committees from State to State to pass legislation. But the “crown” of our work, the pinnacle of our success, will come when we create an inclusive, respectful industry where opportunity is available for all. In that achievement, we will demonstrate our excellence and elevate hemp to its rightful place in industry and in history.
We have been driving forward so hard and fast that we have not taken the time to look left and right to see who is next to us. We need to have diverse perspectives and diverse backgrounds to make this industry reach its full potential. You cannot fully anticipate the complications of using hemp for building low-income housing without having the experience of individuals from varied socio-economic backgrounds. You cannot fully anticipate the challenges of introducing hemp to other nations without having the experience of an ethnically diverse team.
It is not enough to just work with black farmers if you do not operate under fair, non-predatory contracts. The “crown” is the integrity that you bring to the industry and how you interact with others. So, let’s commit to live the words of “America the Beautiful” as we move forward as true patriots and build on our good work of legalization by crowning it with the honor and integrity of creating a “brotherhood” of diverse professionals.
Make that commitment for Black History Month…and every month to follow.
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Scheril Murray Powell, Esq., is a noted agriculture and cannabis attorney and Senior Partner of Scheril Murray Powell P.A. She serves as Former Executive Director of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists of Florida and is Chief Marketing Officer of Cannabiziac, an incubator and accelerator program building entrepreneurship in cannabis and hemp. Scheril also is former Director of Federal Affairs for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and was named by the Daily Business Review as one of the Top 12 Cannabis Attorneys in the state of Florida.