TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers on Thursday questioned the official in charge of the state's medical marijuana licensing program about a years-long delay in issuing a cultivation license to a Black farmer, as required by law.

What You Need To Know

  • Florida lawmakers grill director of Office of Medical Marijuana Use

  • No cultivation license has been issued to a Black farmer, as required by law

  • So far, 22 medical marijuana licenses have been approved

  • One state senator said the delay may be totally unnecessary 

That law, passed by the Florida Legislature in 2017, mandates that at least one of the state's initial licenses be granted to a Black farmer found to have been discriminated against by banks as part of a landmark federal court ruling.

"The plight of the Black farmer in the state of Florida is real," said Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which met Thursday to discuss the issue.

While 22 licenses have been issued to companies to grow, process and sell medical marijuana, not one has gone to a party protected by the provisions of the Pigford vs. Glickman ruling.

Chris Ferguson, the director of the Florida Department of Health's Office of Medical Marijuana Use, told the Agriculture Committee the delay is associated with a lengthy period of litigation regarding the department's license application process.

"We are still preparing the application process,” he said. “It's very comprehensive."

But the legal challenge was resolved in May when the Florida Supreme Court upheld the department's “vertical integration” mandate, and at least one member of the committee appeared visibly stunned by Ferguson's explanation.

"It seems like this delay that we're talking about is totally unnecessary," said Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Fort. Lauderdale).