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US (FL): Lawmakers approve bill that could help people of color to obtain growing licenses

Black farmers who didn’t make the cut last year could have another opportunity to vie for medical-cannabis licenses under a bill approved by lawmakers in the final days of the 2023 legislative session.

The bill, which awaits a decision by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is part of years-long efforts aimed at giving Black farmers entry into Florida’s now-flourishing medical-cannabis industry.

Legislators first attempted to loop Black farmers into the industry as part of a broader law carrying out a 2016 constitutional amendment that authorized medical cannabis. Part of a 2017 law required state health officials to grant a license to an applicant who was a participant in decades-old litigation, known as “Pigford” cases, addressing racial discrimination against Black farmers by federal agriculture officials. To be eligible for the license, Black farmers also had to show they had been in business in Florida for at least five years.

In October 2021, the Florida Department of Health rolled out a process for Black farmers to apply for the license. The state agency received 12 applications, which were evaluated by a private contractor, and in September, announced it intended to award a license to Suwannee County-based farmer Terry Gwinn. But Gwinn’s license hasn’t been finalized because of legal and administrative challenges.


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