Losing applicants challenge Florida’s marijuana license award to Black farmer

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Nearly every applicant who wasn’t selected for a medical cannabis cultivation license reserved for a Black farmer has filed a challenge to the Florida health department decision.

Terry Donnell Gwinn of McAlpin, Florida, on Sept. 21 was chosen from a field of 12 applicants for the license, which was set aside for Black farmers with links to a decadeslong federal litigation.

The petitions against the decision were first reported by WUSF Public Media.

The issue dates back to 1981, when farmers largely located in the South launched a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging lending and assistance discrimination.

The case, often referred to as the Pigford litigation, was settled for $1.3 billion in 2011.

The reasons for the challenges to Gwinn being awarded the license are varied, according to WUSF:

  • In one instance, an 84-year-old applicant died before the license was awarded. His estate believes his application should have still been valid for his heirs. But the health department argued that a deceased person cannot be in the running for a license.
  • In another, an applicant bought a majority interest in a business and support-services company in January. According to his lawyer, the applicant was told that because he wasn’t a sole proprietor, he wasn’t eligible for the license – even though he wouldn’t have been able to embark on the project without partners.

The complaints also were critical of a selection process in which applications were scored by accounting giant KPMG, WUSF reported.

The company earned $22,750 each for the 12 application evaluations.