Legislation that could enable a black farmer to receive a Florida license to grow medical marijuana is headed to the governor’s desk. The Senate on Thursday passed HB 6049, which removes the provision that a black farmer must be a member of the Florida chapter of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association to be eligible for the MMJ business license. The bill had already been approved by the House.
Columbus Smith, 89, filed a lawsuit last September over the membership stipulation, and the case has prevented Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use from issuing five new cultivation licenses.
The state legislature last year mandated that one of the new licenses be awarded to a member of the Pigford vs. Glickman lawsuit, in which the federal government was found to have discriminated against black farmers, and also belong to the association. Smith participated in the 1981 lawsuit, but he wasn’t a member of the black farmers association. The group quit accepting new members before the state set aside an MMJ license for black farmers last June, prompting Smith to take legal action. His suit claims that a portion of Florida’s MMJ law was discriminatory and unconstitutional. Florida’s lawmakers have chided the state’s top marijuana regulator for delays in issuing MMJ licenses.