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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

DeSantis signs medical marijuana bill giving more leeway to patients and black farmers

Florida's new law gives more leeway to patients who use the medication and the farmers who grow it as well. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber/AP
Florida's new law gives more leeway to patients who use the medication and the farmers who grow it as well. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Florida’s long battle over who can have medical marijuana licenses seems to have come to a close.

HB 387 may have been one of the few bills written this year where both Democrats and Republicans lawmakers share similar viewpoints. Republican state representative Spencer Roach introduced the bill back in January.

The bill’s original version focused on giving medical marijuana patients the option to renew their medical cards with a physician remotely.

That’s a big deal for Nathan Andrews. He’s in his late 70s and drives more than thirty miles to visit his preferred doctor in person every seven months.

“It’ll help out really good. See, I started going out there on [U.S. route] 319 on the east side. I could go to one closer but that’s the first one I went to, so I stick to that one," said Andrews.

Late in the legislative session Democratic senators Darryl Rouson and Tracie Davis suggested using Roach’s bill to address another issue: a lawsuit against the state over a lack of minority medical marijuana growers.

The state launched its first licensing program in 2017, but it wasn’t until five years later when the first black farmer was awarded a license.

The bill’s co-sponsor Ralph Massullosided with Rouson and Davis’ proposed fix. The new law requires that licenses be awarded to Black farmers—specifically, those who was involved in a lawsuit 20 years ago against the federal government.

In Pigford vs. Glickman, black farmers sued alleging discrimination in farm loans. That case was settled in 1999. Licensees must still meet all other state requirements.

“By putting in the extra licenses for those individuals that have been trying now for some of you that don’t know several years to get a marijuana license, particularly involving these groups which deals with minority farmers; I think is even made the bill better,” said Massullo.

According to a staff analysis, the new language means up to 11 black farmers who’d previously applied, but were denied licenses, can now get them.

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Adrian Andrews