Columbus Smith is challenging Florida regarding the constitutionality of their requirement that a medical marijuana license has to go to a black farmer. Smith claims that the way the law is written, only a sliver of the black farmers in the state qualify. The lawsuit says that it is an unconstitutional “special law.”
Smith is a black farmer in Panama City, according to Sun-Sentinel. During the special session in June, an increase in licenses by 10 was set to complete by October 3. This law also included wording that one license had to be awarded to a black farmer that was included in lawsuit settlements regarding federal discrimination of black farmers. The law also requires that the farmer be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association – Florida Chapter.
Smith, who meets qualifications regarding federal discrimination, has not been accepted to the required association. This prevents him from being eligible for a license.
The lawsuit says, “There is no rational basis for limiting the opportunity of black farmers to obtain a medical marijuana license to only a few members of that class of black farmers who are also members of a specific private association.”
“Special” laws relating to “granting of privilege to a private corporation” are banned under the Florida Constitution. The lawsuit claims that the new regulations violate that portion of the state constitution.
The defendant in the case is listed as the Florida Department of Health. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the issuing of licenses under the portion of the law listing black farmers as a requirement.
Licensing has been a controversial topic in the state. The Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association has refused to comment on the situation until their legal counsel has reviewed the lawsuit.
Some claim that the lending practices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture are discriminatory. Lawsuits ensued over the last several decades in which settlement judgments were awarded, several claimants haven’t received their portion of the settlement. Some claimants have passed away, never receiving resolution of their cases.
Ocala Farmer Howard Gunn said, “They have carved out most of the small farmers, not only the black farmers, but the small farmers. We can’t compete with those companies. It’s just a shame. It’s a travesty. Again, going back 30 years ago with the USDA, the same thing you saw in Pigford I and Pigford II. It’s the same thing again, right here in the state of Florida. It’s not right.”