Judge halts Florida health officials from granting marijuana license … – Orlando Weekly (blog)
A Tallahassee judge Thursday ordered health officials to stop the process of granting a marijuana license to a black farmer, one of 10 coveted new pot licenses approved by the Legislature this year.
The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use was supposed to grant all of the licenses by Oct. 3, but has not begun accepting applications for some new licenses. Christian Bax, director of the office, blamed the delay on the lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the carve-out for a black farmer.
The challenge is focused on a portion of a new state law that was passed during a June special legislative session. The law was intended to carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida.
Under the law, one of the 10 licenses must go to a grower who had been part of settled lawsuits, known as the “Pigford” cases, about discrimination against black farmers by the federal government.
The law also requires the black farmer who receives a license to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter.
But lawyers for Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City, argued that, while he meets the qualification of being part of the Pigford litigation, he has not been allowed to join the black farmers 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.
On Thursday, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson granted Smith’s request for a temporary injunction “on the bases stated by plaintiffs in their motion,” which focused on the part of the law dealing with the black farmers.
“The court granted the motion based on the particular statute that we challenged, and not on anything