Florida Senators Probe Delayed Licensing of Black Medical Cannabis Farmer

Florida lawmakers questioned the state’s medical cannabis program director last week about the multi-year delay in licensing at least one Black medical cannabis farmer, which was required under a 2017 law.

Full story after the jump.

A group of Florida senators questioned the head of the state’s medical cannabis licensing department last week about the delay in awarding a cannabis business license to a Black farmer, Spectrum News 13 reports. Florida has issued 22 medical cannabis licenses so far but under a 2017 law, officials are required to issue at least one initial license to a Black farmer. The state, however, has so far failed to follow through on that mandate.

“The plight of the Black farmer in the state of Florida is real. ” — Sen. Darryl Rouson (D), chair of the State Agriculture Committee, during the hearing.

In response to the senators’ questions, Chris Ferguson, director of the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Use Division, said the delay has to do with litigation surrounding the license application process.

“We are still preparing the application process. It’s very comprehensive,” he told the committee.

However, the legal challenge Ferguson mentions was resolved in May when the Florida Supreme Court upheld the state’s vertical integration market model.

“It seems like this delay that we’re talking about is totally unnecessary,” Sen. Perry Thurston (D) said during the committee hearing.

The medical cannabis law in question is tied to Pigford v. Glickman, a 1999 landmark case in which Black farmers sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture claiming discrimination. The plaintiffs won in federal court but the case is still being played out in federal and state agriculture policy today, according to Every CRS Report and evidenced by Florida’s current medical cannabis licensing situation.

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