After an administrative law judge last month upheld a decision by state health officials, a battle about a potentially lucrative medical-marijuana license has gone to an appeals court.
Heirs and partners of the late Moton Hopkins, a Marion County farmer and rancher, filed a notice last week that they were taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal, court documents show.
Hopkins was among a dozen applicants for a medical-marijuana license earmarked for a Black farmer who was a “recognized class member” in class-action lawsuits over lending discrimination by the federal government.
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Although Florida Department of Health officials gave Hopkins’ application the top score of the batch, they rejected the application because he died before the licensing process was complete.
Hopkins’ heirs and partners challenged the decision. But Administrative Law Judge Gary Early on Feb. 14 upheld the health officials’ decision.
“Not to be overly simplistic, but the only material fact bearing on this case is whether any of the petitioners listed in the style of this proceeding are ‘a recognized class member’ of the referenced litigation. They are not. The only recognized class member was Moton Hopkins, individually, and he is deceased. Thus, there is no living applicant to whom the license may be issued,” Early wrote.
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A 2017 law that provided an overall framework for the medical-marijuana industry required health officials to issue a license to people with ties to the class-action litigation — known as the “Pigford” litigation.
State health officials in September announced they intended to grant the license to Suwannee County farmer Terry Donnell Gwinn. As is common, the notice of appeal does not detail arguments that attorneys for Hopkins’ heirs and Hatchett Creek Farms, LLC, will make at the appeals court.
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