Florida official calls for probe into Black farmer cannabis license

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Florida’s agricultural commissioner is calling for the state’s top prosecutor to investigate a new rule that provides for a Black farmer medical marijuana license, saying it is discriminatory against Black farmers and “beyond unacceptable.”

Agricultural commissioner Nikki Fried, who also is running for governor, is critical of a nonrefundable $146,000 application fee for the license and other extensive requirements, according to a letter to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

The application fee is more than double what was paid by the initial group of MMJ operators in the state.

Florida marijuana regulators passed an emergency rule last week to establish a process for issuing an MMJ license for one Black farmer in the state’s fast-growing, billion-dollar industry.

The state’s 2017 medical marijuana law required a license to be issued to a Black farmer who was part of a class action discrimination lawsuit in the late 1990s against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Litigation, including a challenge to the 2017 provision by a Black farmer outside the class, has held up additional MMJ licensing in Florida.

Fried questioned whether the new rule was created with “discriminatory intent.”

“Because Black farmers have lost out on this time spent waiting for their chance to apply, they now face significant barriers to entry in the now-established Florida medical marijuana market,” Fried wrote in her letter, which also was addressed to Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel and the state’s Joint Administrative Procedures Committee chairs.

“The fact that Black farmers in Florida had to wait years for FDOH (Florida Department of Health) to release a rule that more than doubles their application fees is not only an affront to the legislature’s directive but is beyond unacceptable.”