Suit alleges Florida medical marijuana law discriminates

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A black farmer from Florida has filed a lawsuit alleging that business license requirements in the state’s medical marijuana law are so restrictive they prevent most black farmers from participating and therefore renders the program unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed by Columbus Smith, of Panama City, according to Sunshine State News.

Under Florida’s MMJ law, state regulators must award 10 medical marijuana business licenses by Oct. 3 in addition to the five that already were operating – and one of those must go to a black farmer. Florida has awarded five of those 10 licenses since June.

According to the news outlet, black farmers are eligible if they:

  • Were involved in a 1981 lawsuit that accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture of discriminating against them by increasing land taxes, denying loans or failing to provide the loans until the end of the growing season.
  • Are members of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association.

However, many of the Florida farmers who won in that 1981 lawsuit – 284, according to the USDA – may no longer be alive or farming, Sunshine State News reported, and Smith said the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association isn’t accepting new members.