FLORIDA, USA — A new Florida rule surrounding medical marijuana license applications is being called discriminatory against Black farmers by the state's agricultural commissioner, Nikki Fried, who is running for governor. She's now asking for a full-on investigation into it.
Last week, the Florida Department of Health passed the emergency rule. In it, the state established a separate medical marijuana treatment center application process for farmers who are recognized class members of the Pigford Cases – a 1999 class-action discrimination lawsuit between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Black farmers.
The suit claimed the federal agency had discriminated against Black farmers and failed to investigate complaints from 1983 to 1997. The USDA would eventually settle, distributing nearly $1 billion to 16,000 farmers. However, a consent decree allowed thousands of new claims to be accepted.
Florida farmers who are recognized class members under the lawsuit will not only have to complete a separate medical marijuana license under the emergency rule but also pay a non-refundable $146,000 fee.
Fried claims the fee is more than double what other farmers pay and adds more "extensive" requirements.
In a letter sent to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida's Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel, Fried wrote she fears the rule was created with "discriminatory intent."
"However, regardless of the intent, it will most certainly have a discriminatory effect," Fried wrote. She is calling on FDOH to revise the rule by making the requirements equal to those of other license applicants. She is also requesting the state begin its investigation into any discriminatory intent immediately.
For years, Black farmers have faced discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1920, USDA reported more than 900,000 Black farmers made up the 6.4 million total farmers who worked in the U.S. A recent survey done by the department in 2017 revealed that the number has dwindled to just 45,508.