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Florida Senator tries to fix sole minority equity cannabis license award

In 2017, the Florida legislature filed the implementation bill for Amendment 2, which opened the Florida medical market. One of the benchmarks of that law was to create a process to offer one minority dispensary license to a member of the Pigford class, a seminal lawsuit brought by black farmers against the US Department of Agriculture over loan denials that was settled in 1999.

Due to several legal challenges, the process was delayed, along with 22 other licenses scheduled to be awarded over the next 5 years. Finally, the applications for the Pigford class were due in March of 2022. The scoring was complete in Sept 21, but awarded to the second highest scoring application because DOH did not allow rights of survivorship to the family of Pigford applicant, Monton Hopkins, 84, who died during that period. Hopkins owned 51 percent of Hatchett Creek Farms, the filing entity. Instead, the license was tentatively awarded to the Gwinn brothers (who intend on selling it). The Hopkins family filed a lawsuit which lost in the lower courts then appealed to the higher court. The other 10 applicants filed briefs challenging the award, including those who not only scored poorly but, in some cases, didn’t meet qualifications.

Sen Daryl Rouson filed a bill to correct this which died in committee, so he filed it as an amendment to a Telehealth bill. Rouson filed his amendment to the house bill when it got to the senate in the last hours of the session, and it passed the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.

The bill (HB 387) requires the health department to issue licenses to Black farmers whose applications did not have any identified deficiencies, regardless of what scores they received. It also requires the department to award licenses to applicants whose applications were deemed to have met “all requirements for licensure” by an administrative law judge and gives applications which were found deficient a 90-day “cure” period to address problems.

“It’s shameful that it (the Black farmer license) was not issued six years ago when it was directed to be issued,” Rouson said in a phone interview.

The question now is whether the governor vetoes the bill, which prevents the awarding of licenses to failed minority applicants who dealt with disparities (definitely “woke” in DeSantis ideology) and kills Telehealth for the recertification of medical cards, or whether it get held up in court if deSantis signs it into law.

“This community should be allowed to share in the beneficial use of marijuana and engage in this industry,” Rouson told News Service of Florida “I’m interested in standing with the governor for the signing of this significant and historic legislation.”

DeSantis hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the measure,


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