By Morris Beegle
Welcome to my new Let’s Talk Hemp weekly industry profile – Shine on You – where I get to feature folks involved in the industry and who are doing important and interesting work from various corners and crevices of the hemp space. This is the third Shine installment and this week I have Michael ‘Coach’ Harris of the Georgia Hemp Association. Coach is a leading voice, advocate, lobbyist and stakeholder on behalf of hemp and cannabis in the state of Georgia. He’s been to several of the CoHempCo produced events and recently spoke at The Southern Hemp Expo in Raleigh, NC.
Let’s get to know Coach a bit better and why he loves hemp!
Michael “Coach” Harris is the visionary founder and CEO of the Georgia Hemp Association, a 501c3 focused on bringing agri producers, elected officials and business owners together to shape policy and community impact. Coach earned his name by coaching wrestling and football at various schools in Dekalb County and also has his own personal team of 7 children and 4 grandchildren. He has a love for bringing people together from all walks of life and started his hemp career with the Green Rush Team and lobbying for CPR 420. He introduced hemp to Georgia’s state legislators and can be found pictured with the Governor for the signing of HB 213. Little known facts: Coach has a Master’s Degree, He is a Navy Veteran and is scared of needles…LOL
When and why did you get into the hemp/cannabis industry?
I always had a love for the cannabis plant; it brings people together…then I traveled to some historic grows and found out about the Hemp revolution. I then realized that no one in my community– at any level was aware of this “Green Rush” opportunity and so I began the Green Rush Team in 2016/2017. I gathered people, I created messaging, I allocated funds for events and ultimately got the state of Georgia into the “Game” of hemp. Hemp has thousands of uses; it makes sense to utilize those opportunities for sustainability. Aside from that, I have family members whose lives have been positively impacted because of my advocacy and exposure to alternative wellness options…literally saving lives and assisting in the transition of our elders.
You are involved in non-profit work, can you tell us about the organization/organizations that you work with and what you do with them?
GHA partners with both for profits and nonprofits to make change across the nation, not just Georgia. One of our main community partners is Alexis Harris of Harris and Associates LLC. They focus on strategic planning for our collaborations with others and program planning/implementation .
We also work with the National Women in Agriculture, which is a dynamic group of agri producers across 40+ states. We work together to bridge the gap between traditional practices and the newly accepted Hemp crop/ industry. Their organization is currently seeking congressional support to have guaranteed funding; currently no minority organization has been awarded that privilege, only FFA and 4H– organizations not active in most minority communities. NWIAA is the largest and longest triple minority (women, veteran, BIPOC) organization in agriculture in the Nation.
We also work with Troop Farms Inc. which is a nonprofit organization that works with veterans to find funding opportunities for housing, farming and careers. Together we ensure veterans feel included in our programming and prepare veterans to advocate for their choice in wellness options (hemp, CBD, and cannabis are frowned upon and can cause veterans to lose benefits, including housing).
The California Minority Alliance has collaborated with us in the past to ensure that we are up to date with the cannabis policy and community culture in legalized states.
What are your favorite products and/or attributes of the hemp/cannabis plant?
Where do we begin!! There are so many things that you can do with this plant… I would say I love the idea of hempcrete and textiles in general. The thought of having a positive carbon imprint, flame resistant, eco friendly building medium is super exciting. My daughter bought biodegradable straws from HempZoo and those were pretty cool; similarly, the utensils at SHE.
Do you have any current or upcoming projects you’re working on and would like to let folks know about?
We are attending MJ Biz in a couple of weeks, which I’d love to be on one of their panels one year, but this year we will be attending as a guest and hosting a hospitality suite with the National Cannabis Party.
We were also invited to speak to over 800 legislators at the NBCSL 45th Annual legislative conference, by their president Representative Billy Mitchell. This is an opportunity for ANY Corporate entity that wants to exhibit corporate responsibility and create social impact around the topic of hemp and cannabis. By sponsoring a panel for the grassroots organizations doing the work, the sponsor can ensure the voices of the little guys will be heard. We will discuss suggested legislative verbiage for safe access, harm reduction and decriminalization to protect patients, advocates and those formerly impacted by the war on drugs NATIONWIDE. Jill Biden, Stacey Abrhams and Kamala Harris are all invited attendees to this event.
What legacy would you like to leave for the next generation from your work?
I want compassion and righteousness to be the lesson in my legacy. There is a lot of work that has been done and still needs to be done. Everyday I wake up I do my work whether I get paid or not.. because I care about my people and I care about making a change. This industry is being commercialized at a rapid rate and I want to encapsulate and protect the “realness” that still exists. In this industry it is easy to feel unnoticed, some will be attacked by those who don’t understand this movement, some have gone to jail, some are still in jail, some have killed themselves, some have killed others and some are completely unaware what’s going on all together—– meanwhile, others are making thousands and millions without uniformed regulation; which translates into making money without benefiting anyone but their friends. My goal is to bring people, ideas and action together to make change in real time versus on data sheets; furthermore, ensure that there is funding to make that change.
What is your favorite hobby and who are your top 3 favorite bands/musical artists of all time?
Coach loves to Sesh and Cook for a group of close friends. Almost everyone has a story about Coach’s cooking.
Rick and Boney
Tall Black Guy
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About Morris Beegle
Cannabis/hemp advocate and entrepreneur Morris Beegle is Co-founder and President of the WAFBA (We Are For Better Alternatives) family of brands. He is also the producer of NoCo Hemp Expo and Southern Hemp Expo as well as publisher of Let’s Talk Hemp. For additional information on what Morris is up to, visit his website at www.morrisbeegle.com and if you would like to get in touch, drop a message to firstname.lastname@example.org