New law paves way for Black farmers’ Marijuana licenses

New law paves way for Black farmers’ Marijuana licenses

Two Black farmers have received licenses to grow, process and sell medical marijuana, after a new state law helped clear the way for the long-awaited licenses.

The Florida Department of Health issued the licenses July 11 to Suwannee County farmer Terry Donnell Gwinn and Bascom based Shedrick McGriff. The farmers each met a deadline to submit a required $5 million bond to begin operating, sources confirmed. Letters sent to Gwinn and McGriff announcing the licenses had been awarded pointed to a measure (HB 387) that lawmakers passed in May and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last month.

The bill was aimed, in part, at helping carry out a 2017 law that earmarked a medical-marijuana license for a Black farmer with ties to doing business in the state. The farmer also had to be part of decades-old class-action lawsuits, known as the “Pigford” cases, against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over discriminatory lending practices. State health officials accepted applications for the Black farmer license in March 2022, after years of delay. The Department of Health in September announced its intent to issue a license to Gwinn, but losing applicants filed administrative and legal challenges. Under the law that DeSantis signed last month, the health department was required to issue licenses to Black farmers whose applications did not have any identified deficiencies. Of last year’s 12 applicants, only Gwinn and McGriff met that provision.

Florida voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment that broadly allowed medical marijuana. Gwinn and McGriff are entering the market as a political committee known as Smart & Safe Florida tries to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot that would authorize recreational use of marijuana by people age 21 or older. State economists recently predicted authorizing recreational use could generate $195.6 million to $431.3 million a year in state and local sales taxes.

“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,” Jim McKee, a lawyer for Gwinn, said Friday. “Upon receipt of cultivation authorization, cultivation will commence in his Alachua County cultivation facility.”

McGriff said he thanked DeSantis and state leaders for the license.

“As a Black farmer, I’ve lived our history with agriculture and felt the weight of the imbalances we’ve shouldered,” he told the News Service. “We’re rolling up our sleeves, preparing meticulously to offer medical cannabis to those patients who need it.”

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Region: Florida

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