Florida sets application dates for Black farmer medical marijuana license

Florida officials will finally begin accepting applications for a long-awaited new medical marijuana business license reserved especially for a Black farmer.

One vertically integrated permit will be up for grabs, following an emergency rule enacted by the Legislature in October, and the state health department will accept applications for the license March 21-25, the News Service of Florida reported.

The new license was required under a 2017 law passed by the Florida Legislature and is connected to a 1981 discrimination case that found Black farmers were disadvantaged in the state by federal officials.

The $146,000 license fee for whichever Black farmer wins, however, is also at issue: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has called the fee “discriminatory” because earlier MMJ business permit fees were less than half that amount. Fried has asked the state attorney general to investigate.

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There are currently only 22 MMJ business license holders in Florida, according to state data, and only 15 of them had at least one dispensary serving patients as of Dec. 3.

Another round of licensing in Florida will follow at some point, the news service reported, with 19 more permits available for hopeful market entrants. The timeline is not clear yet, however.

The 19 licenses in question will be issued under a portion of the 2017 law that requires additional permits to be awarded based on increases in medical marijuana cardholders in the state.

As of this month, Florida has more than 646,000 registered MMJ patients.