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Legislature backs bill removing black farmer medical marijuana requirement

The state is one step closer to removing a barrier for a black farmer to receive a medical marijuana growing license.

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill (HB 6049) that would delete a provision from statutes requiring a black farmer to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Florida Chapter to be eligible for one of the state’s medical marijuana growing licenses.

The House passed the bill earlier, meaning it now awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s approval to become law.

The move comes in the wake of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City who argued that the BFAA stipulation barred him from receiving a growing license.

The state is required to give one of its 10 pot-growing licenses to a recognized class member of the Pigford v Glickman class-action lawsuit, in which the federal government was found to have discriminated against black farmers. When the state crafted its medical marijuana licensing laws, it stipulated that in order for a black farmer to be eligible to receive a license under the Pigford v. Glickman clause, the black farmer must also belong to the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association.

Smith said he was not able to join BFAA and that the provision is unconstitutional. A Tallahassee judge in December sided with Smith and ordered Department of Health officials to stop awarding licenses, according to the News Service of Florida.

Before the vote, Sen. Kevin Rader withdrew an amendment that would have subjected the director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use to confirmation of the Senate.

The current director, Christian Bax, has been criticized by the Legislature for not “fully implementing” medical marijuana as provided by statutes.

“This has never happened in the history of the Legislature where the rule that the statutes that we create are being broken by the executive branch and its as simple as that,” Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat, told senators before withdrawing his amendment.

The bill received near-unanimous approval in both chambers. Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, was the lone no vote in the Senate. Rep. Brad Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican, was the lone no vote in his chamber.

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Andrew Gillum Andrew Gillum

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