Florida issues first medical marijuana license to Black-owned business

Six years after Florida voters approved a medical marijuana ballot measure, and six months after the Department of Health accepted applications, the first Black-owned business received its license to grow and sell marijuana for medicinal use.

The DOH’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use announced Tuesday it awarded the license to Terry Gwinnone of 12 people who submitted applications in March.

Gwinn is part of a group of Black farmers who sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture over racial discrimination in allotting farm loans in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Pigford class, named after the Pigford v. Glickman moniker of the case, was due to receive one medical marijuana license after the Legislature passed a measure in 2017 implementing the ballot measure approved by voters.

But a lawsuit challenging the new law held up the process, and the case wasn’t resolved until last year.

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“To say this has been a long time coming is more than an understatement,” said Taylor Biehlvice president of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

“It is our hope that the Department will move forward with opening an application window for the remaining 22 licenses available for bid, given the Supreme Court’s ruling 14 months ago. Irrespective of any legal challenges that may arise from the Pigford application, we believe the Department will move forward.”

Critics of the state’s medical marijuana law pointed to the initial $60,000 nonrefundable application fee and the requirement that a company be in business for at least 30 years to receive a license as provisions that muscled out Black-owned agriculture firms.

The law’s requirement that one license go to a member of the Pigford class has now been fulfilled, but the other applicants — thanks to a change in state law made this year — can roll over their application fee to apply for the next batch of open licenses.

As of Sept. 16, there were 21 licensed entities with 421 dispensing locations in Florida serving 751,311 patients, according to DOH data.

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