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Join Florida's Medical Marijuana Market? A Long, Winding & Expensive Road If You're Black, But There's News!

The owner of a Suwanee County farm is in line to become Florida’s first Black medical marijuana operator, beating out 11 other applicants competing for a license earmarked for a Black farmer with ties to Florida. 

The Florida Department of Health announced it had issued a “written notice of intent” to approve a medical-marijuana license for Terry Donnell Gwinn

“Mr. Gwinn is very pleased that his application was selected for licensure and is grateful for the hard work by the Florida Department of Health, Office of Medical Marijuana Use, to complete the review of the applications received. He looks forward to working with the office to complete the final steps to licensure,” said Gwinn’s attorney, Jim McKee in a statement to The News Service of Florida.

Gwinn, 69, and his brother Clifford have farmed in Florida for more than 40 years where they cultivated watermelons, soybeans, peanuts, corn and peas on his 1,137-acre farm. 

Eligibility: A Long And Winding And Expensive Road If You’re Black

To be eligible for the medical marijuana license, Black farmers had to show that they had done business in Florida for at least five years. When Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration finally began accepting applications for licenses in March, Black farmers were hit by sticker shock: the nonrefundable application fee of $146,000, which was more than double what prospective operators paid the last time an application process was open.

When Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2016 legalizing medical marijuana, the resulting 2017 law included a provision requiring health officials to issue a license to a Black farmer because none of the African-American farmers in Florida could meet eligibility requirements for an earlier round of state licenses. 

In addition to awarding a license to a Black farmer, this week’s decision could help pave the way for health officials to double the number of MMJ operators in the state — currently at 22, not including Gwinn.  

The selection of Gwinn also comes amid a push to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot that would legalize recreational marijuana.

Trulieve TCNNF, whose CEO Kim Rivers was a keynote speaker at the recent Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago, is the state’s largest MMJ company and has contributed $10 million to help launch the initiative.

Photo: WFTV9

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