Twelve Black farmers have submitted applications in Florida for a lone medical cannabis license worth an estimated $50 million.
The Orlando Sun-Sentinel reports the opportunity was set in motion by state voters in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, an amendment to the state constitution led to legalized cannabis in the Sunshine State. A year later, a provision was included specifically for a Black farmer because none could meet the state’s eligibility requirements in earlier bids for a license.
The issue now is that for Black farmers to grow cannabis in the state, one of the license applicants must have been part of the Pigford Cases, in which Black farmers sued the federal government in 1997, alleging they’d been discriminated against when attempting to gain access to loans, debt restructuring, and other aid provided to white farmers.
A billion-dollar settlement was eventually negotiated. However, many of the original plaintiffs have either passed away or are in their 80s and 90s, meaning Black farmers are still fighting for fairness in the cannabis industry.
“The task is daunting, to say the least, and that was really obvious in some of the responses, in my opinion,” Roz McCarthy, CEO and founder of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, told the Sun-Sentinel. “It took us six years to get to this point to see that, wow, well, I know what you’re trying to do, but this really looks like it didn’t do what it was supposed to do.”
Additionally, Black farmers have to pay a non-refundable Department of Health fee of $146,000 just to bid for a cannabis license.
The 12 applicants vying for the license include the Florida Urban Medical and Educational Services, managed by Anthony Brunson; Gwinn Brothers Farm, managed by Terry Donell Gwinn; Robinsun L.L.C., which was managed and established by Leola T. Robinson; FTG Development, founded by John Allen and William Reese II, and several others.