A Leon County circuit judge will hear arguments Thursday on a request for a temporary injunction to block the Florida Department of Health from carrying out part of a new law that calls for issuing a medical-marijuana license to a black farmer.
Judge Charles Dodson will hear an injunction request by attorneys for Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City who filed the lawsuit in September. Smith alleges that the law is what is known as an unconstitutional “special law” because it is so narrowly drawn that only a handful of black farmers could qualify for the highly coveted license.
The law, passed during a June special session, was designed to carry out a November constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida.
The law specified that one license go to a black farmer who had been part of settled lawsuits about discrimination by the federal government against black farmers. It also said that the black farmer who receives a license would have to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter.
The lawsuit said Smith meets the qualification of being part of the litigation about discrimination against black farmers. But it said he has not been allowed to join the black farmers association, effectively preventing him from receiving a license.
The Florida Department of Health, however, has opposed the temporary injunction. It argued in an October court document that such an injunction would prevent the department from issuing any additional marijuana licenses.
The document pointed to rapid growth in the number of patients qualifying for medical marijuana and said that “restricting medical marijuana is not simply maintaining the status quo and (is) clearly not in the best interest of the public.”