Black Farmers sues Florida Health Dept over medical pot license

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on September 23, 2017.

A black farmer from Panama City has filed suit against the Florida Health Department over the issuance of medical marijuana licenses. The complainant, Columbus Smith, 82, an African American farmer has alleged the current law suits only a handful of black farmers.

Smith alleged that he has been excluded from obtaining license for growing marijuana as he is not a part of Black Farmers Association. By virtue of the law, the Black Farmers Association is entitled to a license.

He said that the private Association had stopped accepting new members even before the state had passed the new medical pot law in June, a move done deliberately to lessen competition. The Association, according to Smith, has five members maximum, and is yet to make the list public.

“There is no rational basis for limiting the opportunity of Black Farmers to obtain a medical marijuana license to only the few members of that class of Black Farmers who are also members of a specific private association,” Smith, stated in his complaint.

The complaint surfaced after the Florida Health Department floated new application for medical marijuana licenses.

"They're not allowing them to join the association," said Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association. The Association has confirmed receiving similar complaints from other black farmers.

The state’s medical marijuana law, which was passed in June this year, permitted the issuance of medical pot licenses to 10 other cultivators by October 3, in addition to the seven existing at that time.

The first licenses were issued in a manner which excluded black farmers. To address the issue, the lawmakers ensured to set aside one of the licenses for the Black Farmers Association.

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