A lawsuit filed Friday challenges the constitutionality of part of a new state law that requires a coveted medical-marijuana license to go to a black farmer.
Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City, filed the lawsuit, alleging that the law is so narrowly drawn that only a handful of black farmers could qualify for the license. The lawsuit contends that the measure is what is known as an unconstitutional “special law.”
The law, passed during a June special session, was designed to carry out a November constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida. A key part of the law was expanding the number of licenses that would be awarded to operators in what could turn into a highly lucrative industry.
While the law called for an overall increase of 10 licenses by Oct. 3, it also specified that one license go to a black farmer who had been part of settled lawsuits about discrimination by the federal government against black farmers. The law also said that the black farmer who receives a license would have to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter.
The lawsuit said Smith meets the qualification of being part of the litigation about discrimination against black farmers. But it said he has not been allowed to join the black farmers association, effectively preventing him from receiving a license.
“There is no rational basis for limiting the opportunity of black farmers to obtain a medical marijuana license to only the few members of that class of black farmers who are also member of a specific private association,” said the lawsuit, filed in Leon County circuit court.
The Florida Constitution bars “special” laws, in part, that relate to “grant of privilege to a private corporation.” The lawsuit alleges that the medical-marijuana law