“Is Florida really committed to diversity in this industry?” Dr. Latresia Wilson asks when thinking of the state’s health department singling out Florida’s Black farmers making it harder for them to participate in the state’s lucrative marijuana industry.
On Oct. 13, the Florida Department of Health issued an emergency rule 64ER21-16 about its Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) license fees. The rule only applies to the one license set aside for Black farmers who participated in the Pigford v. Glickman class-action lawsuit.
In addition to the rigorous application process, applicants from this group must pay more than twice the amount as other farmers paid for an MMTC application fee. The typical MMTC license application fee costs around $60,000, but Black Florida farmers from the Pigford class-action lawsuit must pay $146,000 if they wish to complete the same application.
“Not only does it cost more for the application, but the requirements also that are now placed on the Black farmer. How many Black farmers you know have a few million sitting in the bank?” asked Wilson of the added financial burden placed on Black farmers.
Wilson says the fight for Florida’s Black farmers is reminiscent of the issues at stake in the late 1990s when the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit began, even though the impact goes further back into the 1980s.
In August 1997, Timothy Pigford filed a lawsuit against Dan Glickman, the Secretary of the USDA in 1997, claiming the USDA had been discriminating against Black farmers seeking farm loans or assistance. The suit claimed Black farmers were either denied or forced to wait longer for approval than white farmers, causing financial strain for the Black farmers.
Cecil Brewington also filed a lawsuit against Glickman during the month of August alleging discrimination from the agency.
On Oct. 9, 1998, the court issued a ruling certifying Black farmers part of Pigford and Brewington’s cases suing the USDA for discrimination claims between January 1983 and Feb. 21, 1997, be joined in a class-action suit.
Read the full story at Atlanta Black Star here.