Last week, Leon County, Florida Circuit Judge Charles Dodson granted a temporary injunction sought by Columbus Smith regarding a portion of the Florida law passed last year to implement Amendment Two (medical marijuana). I posted before about Smith’s lawsuit.
The law implementing Amendment Two called for an overall increase of 10 licenses for Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (Florida has a vertical integrated license structure which means licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers grow, distribute and sell medical marijuana) 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 (known as Pigford I and Pigford II) regarding 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. Mr. Smith had been a member of Pigford I and Pigford II, but the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association had closed their membership and would not issue a membership to Mr, Smith.
The Florida Constitution bars “special” laws that relate to a “grant of privilege to a private corporation.” Mr. Smith’s lawsuit alleged the medical marijuana law violated that part of the Constitution.
In issuing the temporary injunction, Judge Dodson ruled that Mr. Smith has a substantial likelihood of success of proving that the law is unconstitutional.
Plaintiff will likely suffer irreparable harm if this court does not enjoin the department from issuing the black farmer license because the law only applies to members of the association and plaintiff … will not be able to apply or qualify for such a license, because he is not a member of the association.
Judge Dodson’s Court Order also asked both sides to come up with a plan to resolve the issue by June, 2018.
Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said the Legislature will likely strip out the part of the law requiring membership in the association for an applicant to be eligible for the black-farmer license.
Dori K. Stibolt is a West Palm Beach, Florida based partner with Fox Rothschild LLP. She focuses her practice on litigation and labor and employment issues and has taken a special interest in the cannabis business. You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.