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Black Minnesota Hemp Businesses Attacked After Speaking Up About Issues With Legalization Bill

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Two Minnesota African American hemp entrepreneurs are taking the high road in the face of relentless lies and bigotry from the white male-dominated hemp and cannabis industries in their home state.

The story of hemp in the United States goes back to the very foundation of this country. Presidents Washington and Jefferson grew the sturdy, versatile, and lucrative plant on their plantations in Virginia, plantations worked by enslaved Africans owned by the two Founding Fathers.

The one institution more endemic to America than even the great establishment of a democratic Republic following the end of the Revolutionary War was the vile and venomous stain of slavery. It is truly the original sin that has sullied and significantly diminished the supposed greatness of the "free" and "equal" United States of America.

The question of what to do about the insidious enslavement of human beings that generated massive financial windfalls for their white male owners in the southern portion of America was supposed to be answered by the great and terrible Civil War, in which over 600,000 young men, white and black, gave their lives. However, almost 160 years later, despite all the advancements in education, industry, technology, and human psychology, that first and most shameful foundation of racism and bigotry persists.


One area of industry and human psychology where this

profoundly damaging and hurtful display of racial attacks and harassment continues to rear its ugly head is the hemp and cannabis industries in Minnesota. In a recent YouTube interview, two prominent and successful African American hemp entrepreneurs sat down to relate their continuing battle to create a safe, prosperous, healthy entrepreneurial space for people of color in the Minnesota hemp sector.


Todd Harris is co-owner of Plift, a hemp-derived beverage company based in Minneapolis-St. Paul. A savvy and seasoned expert in building brands for some of the most iconic companies in the world, Todd decided to come home to Minnesota to help provide health and wellness alternatives as well as create economic opportunities for "people who look like me" in a new and exciting plant medicine sector.

When describing the purpose and mission of Plift, Todd says, "We want the plant powers of hemp and cannabis to be readily accessible to people of all walks (of life), more specifically, black, brown and underrepresented people."

"We want the plant powers of hemp and cannabis to be readily accessible to people of all walks (of life), more specifically, black, brown and underrepresented people."

- Todd Harris, Co-Owner of Plift

Steve Brown, CEO of Nothing But Hemp, is a proud military veteran and innovative hemp entrepreneur also from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Following his time in the service, Brown worked briefly in the marijuana industry in California. Finding it difficult to make inroads in that sector, he turned to hemp when he came across CBD when trying to help his then-spouse with a bad migraine. He saw firsthand just how powerful hemp could be and immediately began to pursue starting a hemp-based business.

Since establishing Nothing But Hemp in 2018, Brown has created a unique and progressive business model for the still young and burgeoning market. He says, "We have an affiliate model where we have multiple locations, and most of the founders of these individual locations are black or Hispanic. So, 50% of our company are people of color."

"We have an affiliate model where we have multiple locations, and most of the founders of these individual locations are black or Hispanic. So, 50% of our company are people of color."

- Steve Brown, CEO of Nothing But Hemp

The growth and success of Harris and Brown's enterprises have not been easy. Both men have had to deal with and persevere through bigoted and racially motivated treatment by prominent white members of the Minnesota hemp and cannabis corporate establishments.

Todd has been called an "outsider" and told that "I don't belong" by many individuals in those tight-knit circles. In addition, he has been accused of selling "trash" and "fake" products by the powers that be.

Steven's experience has been just as deplorable and much more intense. He has had his company referred to as "Nothing But Trash" and has endured threats to his business and false accusations about his personal life. One perpetrator even mailed a pair of women's undergarments and a crass note threatening to expose a fictitious affair to his wife.

It has gotten so bad that Brown filed a cease and desist order against an individual, Shawn Weber, representing MN is Ready, for defamatory statements about Steven and Nothing But Hemp. Defiant and unapologetic, Weber and his supporters claim first amendment rights and scoff at the idea that they are in any way racist.

Despite the denials, Harris and Brown know precisely what is going on regarding these attacks. Sadly and predictably, most, if not all, of the racist and bigoted harassment is due to good old-fashioned American greed.

The Minnesota state legislature is considering a measure that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. On the surface, the bill sounds like a dream come true for those who support legalization. However, the devil, particularly concerning politicians and corporate cannabis, is heavily buried in the details. MN is Ready strongly supports the measure and cloaks itself securely in the messaging that it is "high" time recreational marijuana was made legal in Minnesota.

The language and specifics of the proposed law tell a different story. The initial bill heavily favored corporate cannabis companies supplying Minnesota's medical marijuana program. It also would have put an undue economic and regulatory burden on hemp-based businesses by requiring additional licensing and other prohibitive provisions for hemp business owners.

In response to legislation, leaders like Harris and Brown rightfully and intelligently petitioned lawmakers to revise the bill to make it fair for all impacted parties in the hemp and cannabis industries. Not surprisingly, that is when the attacks from Weber and his motley crew began.

Minnesota prides itself in a slogan called "Minnesota Nice." The premise is that we do things in a pleasant and friendly way in Minnesota. The family of George Floyd would most likely have a big problem with anyone trying to tell them how "nice" Minnesota is, particularly to men and women of color.

Todd Harris and Steven Brown are two bright and engaging business leaders who want to help build something special in the hemp industry for black, brown, and disenfranchised people. Both men support common-sense marijuana legalization legislation for the state of Minnesota. Both men believe in the benefits of hard work, helping others, and the magical powers of the hemp plant.

They want what most people in America want - a fair and equitable seat at the table. Racial attacks like the ones they describe are reprehensible and, in truth, terrible business. The hemp and legal marijuana sectors are poised to become economic juggernauts in the next ten to fifteen years. There is more than enough for all enterprising Minnesotans and Americans looking to join the explosion in both industries. Resorting to the previous century's dirty and morally bankrupt bigoted tactics cannot be tolerated or ignored.

President Thomas Jefferson once famously and ironically quipped, "Vigilance is the price of liberty." So much has evolved and changed in this country since he wrote those words. There has been an honest and fundamental change in many areas of business, government, culture and life.

However, we still have so much further to go before we realize the true and virtuous promise of the American ideal. As long as small-minded individuals continue unopposedly spewing racial hatred and venom to diminish and harm others, we will be stuck in that American prison forged with chains and whips four centuries ago.

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