Two Black farmers in Florida have been awarded medical marijuana business licenses under a bill that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law last month.
The state’s legalization law that was implemented in 2017 stipulated that one medical cannabis business license needed to go to a Black farmer who is covered by the historic “Pigford” class action litigation against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging discriminatory lending practices.
But it was only last year that the Florida Department of Health opened applications for the special license. And while regulators announced their intent to issue one to farmer Terry Donnell Gwinn, the action was held up after other applicants made a legal and administrative challenge. That inspired lawmakers to pass HB 387, mandating that the department approve licenses for all qualified applicants.
DeSantis signed the bill last month, and the department has since approved licenses for two of the 12 people who submitted applications last year. Gwinn and Shedrick McGriff received the licenses and thanked the governor for approving the law that made it possible.
“Mr. Gwinn is grateful that the long awaited Pigford MMTC (medical marijuana treatment center) license has been awarded, and he and his team look forward to moving forward quickly to begin cultivation, processing and dispensing operations,” Gwinn’s attorney Jim McKee said on Friday, The News Service of Florida reported. “Upon receipt of cultivation authorization, cultivation will commence in his Alachua County cultivation facility.”
The law also says that the department must approve licenses for people whose applications were deemed by an administrative judge to have met “all requirements for licensure,” and it also allows a 90-day curing period for applications found to have deficiencies.
“As a Black farmer, I’ve lived our history with agriculture and felt the weight of the imbalances we’ve shouldered,” Gwinn told the News Service. “We’re rolling up our sleeves, preparing meticulously to offer medical cannabis to those patients who need it.”
DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, opposes adult-use cannabis legalization and has affirmed that he would not move to end prohibition if elected to the Oval Office. But his record as governor is also mixed—scattered with examples of him taking action to support the state’s medical cannabis and hemp industries, while also making other moves to enact certain restrictions.
Earlier this month, DeSantis signed legislation banning sales of any consumable hemp products—including cannabis “chewing gum”—to people under 21, an expansion of an existing prohibition on young people being able to purchase smokable hemp.
The governor separately signed a measure this month that prohibits sober living facilities from allowing residents to possess or use medical marijuana, even if the patient is certified by a doctor to legally use cannabis therapeutically in accordance with state law. All other doctor-prescribed pharmaceutical medications may be permitted, however.
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Depending on the outcome of an ongoing state Supreme Court case, the governor may not have a say in whether Florida enacts legalization. The state recently certified that a campaign collected enough valid signatures to put the issue on next year’s ballot, though Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) is challenging the measure, imploring the court to invalidate it as she’s done with previous reform initiatives.
Separately, economic analysts from the Florida legislature and DeSantis’s office estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. And those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.
Photo courtesy of California State Fair.