FROM THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – After lawmakers decided last year that a Black farmer should receive a highly coveted medical-marijuana license, Gov. Rick Scott is poised to act on a bill that could defuse a lawsuit stemming from the decision.
Scott on Monday received a bill (HB 6049) that lawmakers passed this month to change criteria for awarding a license to a Black farmer.
Lawmakers last year approved a measure that required one medical-marijuana license to go to a Black farmer who had been part of settled lawsuits, known as “Pigford” cases, about discrimination against Black farmers by the federal government. The measure also required the Black farmer who receives a license to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter.
But lawyers for Panama City farmer Columbus Smith filed a constitutional challenge, arguing that while Smith meets the qualification of being part of the Pigford litigation, he has not been allowed to join the association, effectively preventing him from receiving a license.
The Florida Constitution bars “special” laws, in part, that relate to “grant of privilege to a private corporation.” The lawsuit alleges the medical-marijuana law violates that part of the Constitution.
Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in January granted a temporary injunction requested by Smith. Lawmakers subsequently approved the bill, which would remove the requirement that farmers be members of the association to qualify for a marijuana license.
Scott faces an April 10 deadline to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.