The Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association closed off applications to new members after the state Legislature passed a law to dole out five new medical marijuana growing licenses -- one of which is poised to go to a black farmer, the group said this week.
Florida won’t be meeting the deadline to issue out the licenses -- five of the 10 licenses were supposed to be distributed this week but were delayed due to Hurricane Irma and a lawsuit over the industry -- but state officials assured farmers their time would eventually come once officials worked out the kinks in the licensing process.
In order to qualify to receive a license, black farmers must have participated in the Pigford v. Glickman case and be a member of the BFAA’s Florida chapter.
Pigford v. Glickman was a lengthy lawsuit which began in 1981 and spanned nearly two decades.
In the 1980s, black farmers alleged the U.S. Department of Agriculture racially discriminated against black farmers in a myriad of ways, marginalizing minority farmers by increasing land tax, delaying loans until the end of planting season and only approving a small amount of black farmers’ loan requests.
Florida lawmakers sought to even the playing field for minority farmers by requiring the state to give out one of the new licenses to a black farmer.
Some black farmers, however, say the requirements to get one of the coveted licenses are so narrow that almost no one qualifies -- and others have alleged the BFAA has been trying to shut out new members by telling them they aren’t accepting new applications.
Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City, filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court earlier this month alleging the new state medical marijuana law is an example of an unconstitutional “special law.” Smith says the process has been confusing, shutting out a large number of farmers who want to cash in on the industry, including himself.
Smith says only three to five growers are actually in the running for the new license since the BFAA isn’t accepting new members.
The BFAA’s Florida chapter said requests have flooded in to apply for the medical marijuana licenses -- and the high volume of people requesting “information” was part of why it had shut down applications.
“At the direction of our Board of Directors, and in preparation for applying for the license before the growing/harvesting season, we closed our membership even though membership in BFAA-FL is not solely to meet the requirement for MMTC licensure,” the group wrote in a statement. “We will reopen our membership after the State has issued a medical marijuana license.”
The group noted black farmers can apply for one of the four other licenses, and state health officials will award minorities extra points in the application process.
Still, competition is stiff for a license, with numerous growers from around the state all hoping to get a chance to be a part of the state’s booming medical pot industry.
The BFAA-FL said it was fully aware of just how many people wanted “in” on medical marijuana and hoped more minorities would make the push to participate.
“BFAA-FL is excited to help grow more minority participation in the new cannabis industry that has taken America and most of the world by storm,” the group said. “The organization is excited to see the State of Florida embrace minority participation in next round of minority applications. More importantly, BFAA-FL is excited to announce the grant that will be part of helping change the exclusionary process that has plagued the industry.”
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