The Florida Department of Health has announced the application period for the medical cannabis cultivation license set aside for a single Black farmer, according to a News Service of Florida report. Published on Thursday, the new rule opens the license period from March 21 to March 25, 2022. Applicants must have been in business in Florida for at least five years and have a nursery certificate from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to apply.
“This has been a long saga. It’s been a long time coming but it’s due,” industry lawyer John Lockwood said in the report.
“I think it’s a big milestone that the state has got to a point (where) they’re in a solid regulatory environment now. They’re able to officially regulate the industry but simultaneously fulfill their statutory duties and start pushing out some of these licenses.” — Lockwood, via the News Service of Florida
The move comes more than four years after Florida passed its medical cannabis framework. The 2017 law notably required at least one license to be awarded to a Black farmer. Aides for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said they have prioritized licensing a Black medical cannabis farmer in preparation for 19 additional medical cannabis licenses, which will be up for grabs in the near future. State officials blame the delay on lawsuits and legal challenges but critics say this is little consolation to Black farmers who have been held back while Florida’s 22 active licensees have flourished in one of the nations’ most lucrative cannabis markets.
The non-refundable application fee for the Black farmer license is set at $146,000, which is more than twice as much as the approximately $60,000 fee assessed during the original batch of applications in 2017. The discrepancy has prompted Agriculture Commissioner and Florida gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried to ask the state attorney general to look into the difference between the two license fees.
“The way that the state of Florida has handled the medical marijuana licensure process for Black farmers is completely unacceptable and discriminatory on its face,” Fried said in a statement. “We should be leveling the playing field for Black farmers who have faced discrimination and other structural obstacles in the farming industry, not doubling their fees and creating additional regulatory burdens for them.”
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