By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
September 22, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- The Florida Department of Health was sued on Friday over who gets the Black Farmer's medical marijuana vendors license.
By law, licenses have less than two weeks to approve five new companies to grow and sell marijuana.
82-year-old Columbus Smith, a Black Farmer from Panama City filed suit against the state, saying he is being excluded from obtaining a license to grow medical marijuana because he is not a member of the Black Farmers Association, which, by law, is entitled to a license.
Smith alleges he is being excluded from the organization to lessen competition.
"They're not allowing them to join the association," said Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association.
The MMBA says it has received similar complaints from other black farmers.
"In essence, the association is discriminating against their own qualified candidates to clearly allow for less competition," Biehl continued.
The suit was field days after the Department of Health published a new application for marijuana licenses. The department is receiving flack from activists who say the DOH will miss its October 3 deadline to approve new vendors.
The legislature ordered more vendors to increase competition.
Medical marijuana isn't covered by insurance, so patients have to pay out of pocket.
Any reduction in price makes a direct impact on the wallets of the more than 36,000 patients who have qualified for treatment.
If the DOH fails to meet the deadline, additional lawsuits from patients and potential vendors could be on the horizon.
The Florida Chapter of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association had no comment when asked about the lawsuit filed by Smith.