A lawsuit was recently filed which challenges the constitutionality of part of the Florida law implementing Amendment Two (medical marijuana).  A key part of the law was expanding the number of growing licenses that would be awarded to farmers/operators in the lucrative medical marijuana business.

The law implementing Amendment Two called for an overall increase of 10 licenses by October 3, 2017.  But, the law also provided that one (1) of those licenses go to a black farmer who had been a party to settled lawsuits about discrimination by the federal government against black farmers.  The law also said that the black farmer who receives the medical marijuana license would have to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter.

Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City, Florida filed the lawsuit.  Mr. Smith alleges that the law is so narrowly drawn that only a couple of black farmers could qualify for the license.  The lawsuit contends that the carve-out license is what is known as an unconstitutional “special law.”

The lawsuit said Mr. Smith meets the qualification of being part of the litigation (known as “Pigford I” and “Pigford II”) about discrimination against black farmers.

But, Mr. Smith has not been allowed to join the black farmers association, precluding him from receiving a license.  According to the lawsuit, the association is not accepting new members.

There is no rational basis for limiting the opportunity of black farmers to obtain a medical marijuana license to only the few members of that class of black farmers who are also member of a specific private association.

Mr. Smith’s lawsuit seeks an injunction against the Florida Department of Health’s issuing a license related to the black farmer.


Dori K. Stibolt is a West Palm Beach, Florida based partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She focuses her practice on litigation and labor and employment issues.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.