Bill for Black Farmers Marijuana Licenses Amended

A Florida bill was amended for Black farmers to address medical marijuana license issues, offering an extended period for application corrections and removing the five-year business requirement. (PeopleImages)

A priority bill for the Department of Health (DOH) has been amended to include language addressing Black farmers and medical marijuana licenses.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services amended SB 1582 last week to include language that directs the DOH to revisit decisions to award and deny medical marijuana licenses under a 2023 law that was championed by Sens. Tracie Davis and Darryl Rouson.

The amended bill gives Black farmers who applied for licenses under a 2023 law another 90 days to cure any errors or omissions on their medical marijuana applications. The amended measure also makes clear that an applicant does not need to meet the statutory prerequisite that an applicant be in business for five years prior to being awarded a license.

When Florida first launched its medical marijuana licensing program, none of the first dispensaries were minority-owned, despite a statutory requirement that a license be awarded to Black farmers known as Pigford-class farmers, a name stemming from a federal lawsuit.

Robert Gwinn (L) was awarded a medical marijuana license in 2022. He and Terry Donnell have been farming together at Gwinn Brothers Farm in Suwannee County for nearly 30 years. (

The state ultimately awarded a medical marijuana license to Black farmer Terry Gwinn. But another 11 applicants for that permit who were denied sued the state for discrimination. The 2023 legislation was aimed at resolving the outstanding licensure issues for the 11 other applicants by requiring the DOH to issue licenses to applicants who corrected the deficiencies in their applications. The bill also gave any applicant who had deficiencies 90 days to cure that deficiency.

The DOH only issued three new licenses to the applicants following the 2023 law, Rouson said.

“Unfortunately, some applicants were not able to cure all the deficiencies with their application, largely due to no fault of their own,” Rouson told members of the Senate health care spending panel. “We thought that several licenses would be issued. … That has not happened.”

While Rouson offered the history of the issue, Davis, whose district includes one of the original Pigford-class farmers who still does not have a medical marijuana license, told the committee that Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has been working on the amendment. Davis also said the amendment had the support of the underlying bill sponsor, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez.

Davis said eliminating the statutory requirement for Black farmers to have been in business for five years should go ahead.

“This requirement doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider that many of these applicants are well over 90-plus years,” she said.

The amended bill also makes clear that if an applicant who was alive as of Feb. 1, 2024, dies before the completion of the cure process, their death may not be used as a reason to deny the application or any resulting legal challenges.

Lobbyists say that language, though, could be problematic because it excludes applicants who applied for a medical marijuana license when the program was first established but died before Feb. 1, 2024.

While similar language has yet to emerge in the House, House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said last week that the chamber supports the proposal. Driskell made the remark at a Democratic caucus meeting, which was attended by some of the Black farmers who would benefit from the change.

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