Ray Warthen, a fifth-generation Black farmer, has his eye on Florida’s burgeoning $1 billion medical marijuana cash crop.
He’s already made a mark in Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood, transforming a city lot into a community farm with beehives, bananas, collard greens and other plants.
But Warthen and other Black farmers have been left behind in Florida’s “green rush.” None of the state’s 22 licenses to grow and dispense medical pot is held by a Black-owned business.
“As Black farmers, we don’t have the funding,” said Warthen, a 44-year-old lifelong Floridian who grew up in Riviera Beach and now lives in Minneola. “We don’t have the generational wealth that’s been built up from all the previous farmers and farm land.”
Warthen bought 10 acres in Groveland, where he’d like to grow medical marijuana. But the application fee alone costs $146,000, and the money isn’t refunded if the application is denied. A $5 million performance bond also must be posted. Licenses are capped to only a handful of growers that are reaping a windfall from the state’s more than 630,000 registered medical marijuana patients.
The industry could grow even more lucrative in coming years if Florida joins other states in legalizing recreational marijuana. But so far a tightly regulated market has produced a system where only those with deep pockets and extensive connections can break in and benefit. [Read more at Orlando Sentinel]