A portion of the law enacted by the Legislature in June that implements Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment approved by voters in November is being legally challenged by a black farmer in North Florida.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Leon County, Columbus Smith claims a provision of the law that requires that the state must award one of its medical marijuana licenses to a black farmer is unconstitutional. He claims the law is so narrowly written that only a handful of farmers can qualify for the license.
The 80-year-old Smith, from Panama City, claims the law violates his rights because he’s unable bid on the license reserved for members of the the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, which Smith doesn’t belong to. He claims the private association won’t allow new members to join.
According to Smith’s lawsuit, the association stopped accepting new members before the medical marijuana implementing bill was passed.
“There is no rational basis for limiting the opportunity of Black Farmers to obtain a medical marijuana license to only the few members of that class of Black Farmers who are also members of a specific private association,” Smith’s lawsuit states.
The law requires the state to award 10 additional cultivation licenses by Oct. 3 and that one of those licenses must go to a black farmer.
In addition to being part of the association, the law also specifies that the license must go to a black farmer who has been part of a settlement involving lawsuits about discrimination by the federal government against black farmers.
In his lawsuit, Smith claims to meet all of the requirements of the law to obtain the one black farmer license, except for the fact he can’t join the Black Farmers Association.
Smith wants the courts to toss out the requirement that one of the licenses go to a member of that association and prevent the state from moving ahead with the awarding of that license.
The Florida Department of Health is listed as the defendant in the lawsuit. DOH is responsible for awarding the medical marijuana cultivation licenses.