Georgia’s First Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Open

There are nearly 30,000 registered medical cannabis patients in Georgia, but for years, they have had no option to legally purchase and obtain the product they have been prescribed.

That changed on Friday, when the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors for business.

The medical cannabis company Trulieve is behind each retailer, located in Macon and Marietta. 

“We believe that access to medical cannabis improves lives, and Trulieve is proud to be the first to provide that access to the state of Georgia,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers in a press release. “We look forward to providing high quality products and an elite experience.”

Georgia lawmakers legalized medical cannabis treatment in 2015 with the passage of the Haleigh’s Hope Act. The bill made it legal for physicians to prescribe cannabis oil with no more than 5% THC to patients suffering from a host of qualifying conditions. Those conditions, via the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission, are: “Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness or recalcitrant nausea and vomiting; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries; Multiple sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Crohn’s disease; Mitochondrial disease; Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Tourette’s syndrome, when such syndrome is diagnosed as severe; Autism spectrum disorder, when (a) patient is 18 years of age or more, or (b) patient is less than 18 years of age and diagnosed with severe autism; Epidermolysis bullosa; Alzheimer’s disease, when such disease is severe or end stage; AIDS when such syndrome is severe or end stage; Peripheral neuropathy, when symptoms are severe or end stage; Patient is in hospice program, either as inpatient or outpatient; Intractable pain; [and] Post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from direct exposure to or witnessing of a trauma for a patient who is at least 18 years of age.”

But the law’s full implementation has been beset by regulatory delays, even as the number of registered medical cannabis patients in the state has continued to grow. There are currently around 27,000 Georgians registered in the program. 

“Today is a new beginning for the over 27,000 registered medical patients Georgia,” Rivers said in Friday’s press release. “Trulieve is equally thrilled and humbled to bring the first two medical cannabis dispensaries in the state serving both Macon and Marietta communities in their health and wellness journey.”

In addition to the dispensaries in Macon and Marietta, Trulieve has plans to open three more in the state this year in Columbus, Newnan and Pooler. 

“I’m proud to open two dispensaries in both Macon and Marietta for patients to begin receiving the medicine they need,” Lisa Pinkney, president of Trulieve Georgia, said in Friday’s announcement. “I also want to congratulate the commission along with the whole Trulieve Georgia team on reaching this milestone after the hard work to date and thank both teams for moving expeditiously to approve the dispensary application and conduct the dispensary inspections.”

In March, Georgia lawmakers advanced a bill that would increase the number of available medical cannabis dispensary licenses from six to 15.

According to Axios, medical cannabis customers in the state “sign in and show their photo ID state-issued registry card to the receptionist” at the dispensary, and then “enter a showroom that looks like a cross between a jewelry store and a Gen Z-friendly wealth management firm.” 

“The stores carry tinctures ($40-$60) and capsules ($40) in indica, sativa and hybrid varieties and topical ointments ($30),” Axios reported. “Medical cannabis in Georgia is limited to 5% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives users a high.”

The post Georgia’s First Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Open appeared first on High Times.

This Year’s Top 420 Events Across the US

From humble origins, the legacy of 420 has grown into a celebration of global proportions. Marked on April 20 each year, the festivities take many forms, though a love for cannabis and appreciation for the community remains constant. Today, parties marking weed’s unofficial high holy day range from legacy, large-scale smoke sessions to major productions headlined by reggae legends and chart-topping rappers. The day is drawing near, and with more and more states embracing legalization, there are more 420 events happening than ever. With that in mind, here’s a look at ten of the most notable 420 events happening across the nation.

The Marley Brothers at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Morrison, CO: April 19-20

The math here is simple: Add some of reggae’s biggest names to one of the most iconic venues in the entire US and it equals an unmissable 420 experience. That’s what’s on tap for Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which will host the Marley Brothers for two unforgettable nights. On April 19, Ziggy, Stephen, Damian, and Ky-Mani Marley will perform with special guests Sean Paul and Protoje. On April 20, the children of Bob Marley return for another show, this one with Steel Pulse, Lee “Scratch” Perry and more. These should be some seriously special nights—the Red Rocks’ specialty.

NY Cannabis Freedom Festival

Brooklyn, NY: April 19-20

Things should be next level at the fifth New York Cannabis Freedom Festival now that adult-use cannabis is legal in the Empire State. Featuring music, guest speakers and vendor exhibits, the NYCFF is packed with panels, events and a performance by headliner Raven International, all backdropped by the exciting prospect of seeing where legal cannabis in New York goes next.

Mile High 420

Denver, CO: April 20

Want to experience 420 in its full glory? Head to Denver for Mile High 420, which bills itself as the world’s largest free celebration devoted to smoking cannabis. Set in Civic Center Park, this year’s installment remains free but does require advanced registration, which seems well worth it given the event is set to be hosted by stoner legend Tommy Chong and feature performances from Rick Ross, Fivio Foreign  and Waka Flocka Flame, among others.

420 Hippie Hill

San Francisco, CA: April 20

Golden Gate Park’s Robin Williams Meadow is home to California’s biggest free cannabis event, where crowds flock to Hippie Hill to ring in the arrival of 4:20 pm. This year’s edition is set to feature a performance by Erykah Badu as well as plenty of top-notch people watching. And, if the city of San Francisco opts to approve pending permits, 2023 will also see the return of legal sales and consumption to the event for a second year. But regardless of that outcome, the place will undoubtedly be packed with the smell of good flower this 420.

Glass House Fest

Los Angeles, CA: April 20

Want to get in on a secret? Keep close tabs on this page from top California cultivator Glass House Farms, where specifics on their plans for April 20 will soon be revealed. Past activations and surprise pop-up events from the brand have featured the likes of Flying Lotus, Duckwrth, Guapdad 4000, Tiffany Haddish and Eric Andre, so there’s good reason to believe they have something equally amazing cooked up for this year’s installment.

National Cannabis Festival

Washington, DC: April 22

Not every 420 event happens on the exact date, making the party last even longer. One great example is Washington, DC’s National Cannabis Festival. Taking over the RFK Festival Grounds on April 22, this multi-faceted event includes a concert headlined by rapper 2 Chainz in addition to educational programming, an exhibitor fair and an aptly named “Munchies Zone.” There’s even the prospect of a catching a weed-themed wedding or two while you’re there.

The Grass is Greener Gathering

Hadley, MA: April 21-22

Invading Hadley, Massachusetts from April 21-22, the Grass is Greener Gathering doubles as a celebration of 420 and Earth Day (April 22) with a stacked music lineup headlined by Action Bronson on Friday and Fugees’ founder Wyclef Jean on Saturday. Featuring three music stages, 75+ vendors, pro wrestling exhibitions and hot air balloon rides, GGG is an annual East Coast stoner’s paradise that also makes a point of using their proceeds from ticket sales to support worthy causes.

Pocono 420/Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival

Where: Longpond, PA: April 22-23

The Scranton-based festival is one of the largest on the East Coast. For its ninth installment, the PA Cannabis Festival is hitting the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, where it will host two stages and 300+ vendors for a wild weekend of weed-themed fun. Presented by CuraLeaf, the 2023 edition will feature performances from Bong Hits for Jesus, Space Kamp, and Kottonmouth Kings. This year also introduces the option to camp on-site for those seeking a more immersive, scenic excursion.

420 Golf Tournament

Suquamish, WA: April 22

Agate Dreams in gorgeous Suquamish, Washington has found a perfect marriage with their annual 420 Golf Tournament. Set to return for its second installment in 2023, the event offers a chance to hit the links with your pot-loving peers for a scramble format completion in pursuit of a cash prize. Naturally, registration costs $420 per four-person team, which includes meals and swag.

Sweetwater 420 Fest

Atlanta, GA: April 22-23

Atlanta’s Sweetwater 420 Fest takes place at Sweetwater Brewery. There’s an old-school rave vibe to this brewer’s warehouse that doubles as a venue for the annual occasion. Beyond having a blast with good bud and brews, you can also enjoy a lineup of musical talent topped by Shakey Graves, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Ghostland Observatory. It’s a testament to this fest’s appeal that they can snag such a dazzling mix of acclaimed artists to come through.

The post This Year’s Top 420 Events Across the US appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Georgia House Passes Bill To Increase Medical Pot Licenses

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill on March 7 that would expand the number of medical cannabis licenses available. The passage of House Bill 196, which received 170 votes in favor and only two opposed, would boost the current license number of six to 15. According to the Capitol Beat, the passage of this bill is to address the lawsuits that the state of Georgia has received from cannabis businesses that were denied a license.

Although Georgia first legalized medical cannabis oil possession in 2015, it took four years for legislators to introduce bills that would regulate cannabis cultivation and sales. In 2019, six licenses were issued in total, including two Class 1 licenses (for cultivation up to 100,000 square feet) and four Class 2 licenses (cultivation up to 50,000 square feet). 

This includes two Class 1 licenses owners Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia, and four Class 2 licenses that were delayed due to numerous lawsuits, which caused the suspension of all chosen applicants.

Initially, the Class 2 licenses were awarded to FFD GA Holdings, TheraTrue Georgia LLC, Natures GA LLC, and Treevana Remedy Inc. in July 2021. Protests were filed by applicants who were not chosen. According to Kristen Goodman, the lawyer representing these four of the applicants who did not win a license, the license process was a “train wreck.” She also stated that the two licenses that have been confirmed went to out-of-state companies. “They’re not serving the children who have excessive seizures in Northwest Georgia. They’re not serving the children with cancer in Southwest Georgia,” said Goodman. “They have all the market they need right here in the central part of the state.”

In an attempt to remedy the situation, the House introduced HB-1425 in February 2022 which would have completely started the license process over from scratch. The Senate offered a substitute to HB-1425 that would ask the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to award licenses to six applicants, but not specifically the same six applicants that were originally chosen. Ultimately, the House bill was shut down and the Senate version advanced, but eventually died at the end of 2022.

Rep. Alan Powell spoke to legislators on March 6 about the necessity of HB-196 as a way to resolve the ongoing issue. “Let’s fix the system,” said Powell. “Let’s get it moving and go forward.”

The HB-196 also requires that a Medical Cannabis Commission Oversight Committee be created to manage “membership, inspections, provision of information, plan for accredited lab testing, and patient and physician input.” If passed, it would also allow the commission to increase the number of dispensaries based on how many medical cannabis patients are registered. Every increment of 5,000 patients would allow an additional Class 2 license, and every 10,000 patients would allow an additional Class 1 license, in order to keep up with demand. As of February, there are almost 25,000 medical cannabis patients on the state registry.

Now HB-196 moves on to the Senate for consideration.

In the meantime, owners of Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia are moving forward with their respective businesses. Botanical Sciences CEO Gary Long told Georgia Public Broadcasting about his progress. “We have already begun the production process, which starts with the seeding of cannabis plants in our indoor growing facility producing a variety of tinctures, capsules, and topicals formulated to address the needs of Georgia patients,” Long said. “The opening of our facility was a key milestone for our company, for the city of Glennville, and for the many thousands of those in need awaiting access to this critical form of medicine.”

Trulieve released a press statement on Dec. 6, 2022. “Trulieve is thrilled to receive a Georgia cannabis production license and we appreciate the Commission’s diligence throughout the selection process,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. “We look forward to educating the Georgia market on the numerous health and wellness benefits of cannabis, as well as providing patients statewide access to the medical cannabis they have been seeking.”

The post Georgia House Passes Bill To Increase Medical Pot Licenses appeared first on High Times.

Georgia Medical Cannabis Program Finally Taking Shape

The long-delayed medical cannabis program may finally be coming together in Georgia, with state regulators reportedly expected to vote on rules over the production and sale of the product.

Capitol Beat News Service reports that the “Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is expected to vote Wednesday on rules governing all aspects of the program from growing the leaf crop in greenhouses under close supervision to manufacturing low-THC cannabis oil to treat patients suffering from a variety of diseases to selling the product at a network of dispensaries across the state.”

The Medical Cannabis Commission held a meeting last week at Lanier Technical College in Gainesville, where officials heard from representatives from medical cannabis companies who “urged Georgia regulators to quickly approve rules for production and distribution of the drug to registered patients while skeptics of the drug asked for stronger protections against illegal use,” Georgia public radio station WUGA reported.

The anticipated action this week by the Medical Cannabis Commission means that qualifying patients in Georgia may soon have access to the treatment years after it was made legal. 

State lawmakers in 2015 passed the Haleigh’s Hope Act, which legalized the prescription of cannabis oil containing no more than 5% THC for patients with the following qualifying conditions (as listed on the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission’s official website): “Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness or recalcitrant nausea and vomiting; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries; Multiple sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Crohn’s disease; Mitochondrial disease; Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Tourette’s syndrome, when such syndrome is diagnosed as severe; Autism spectrum disorder, when (a) patient is 18 years of age or more, or (b) patient is less than 18 years of age and diagnosed with severe autism; Epidermolysis bullosa; Alzheimer’s disease, when such disease is severe or end stage; AIDS when such syndrome is severe or end stage; Peripheral neuropathy, when symptoms are severe or end stage; Patient is in hospice program, either as inpatient or outpatient; Intractable pain; [and] Post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from direct exposure to or witnessing of a trauma for a patient who is at least 18 years of age.” 

The law was given teeth in 2019, when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that created the Medical Cannabis Commission and established a regulatory framework for the program.

Since then, the number of registered patients who are eligible to receive the cannabis oil has grown to more than 25,000, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

But none of those patients are able to legally purchase the oil in Georgia. 

Should the Medical Cannabis Commission approve the regulations that are up for a vote this week, “two companies awarded licenses to produce low THC oil could begin selling it to patients as soon as this spring,” according to WUGA.

Capitol Beat News Service reports that the Medical Cannabis Commission is “requesting a $125,000 increase on top of its current $908,000 fiscal 2023 budget to move the program forward,” an amount that “includes licensing the five dispensaries the original 2019 law authorized for each production licensee in addition to a sixth dispensary each will be permitted to open now that the registry of Georgia patients eligible to receive the oil has climbed above 25,000.”

The post Georgia Medical Cannabis Program Finally Taking Shape appeared first on High Times.

Cannabis Legalization Could Make New Strides in 2023

The effort to reform the nation’s cannabis laws made new strides in 2022 with the passage of recreational marijuana legalization ballot measures in Maryland and Missouri in the November midterm elections. Success was not universal, however, as similar propositions on the ballot in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota failed to gain the approval of voters. 

Looking at 2023, new milestones have already been achieved this year, with Connecticut launching regulated retail sales of adult-use cannabis on January 10, a move that was preceded by the expungement of nearly 43,000 marijuana-related convictions in the state at the dawn of the new year. And as we head further into 2023, several states across the country are likely to make new ground in the struggle to end cannabis prohibition.

A New Focus

Brian Vicente, a founding partner at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm, Vicente Sederberg LLP, says that despite spending millions of dollars on lobbying federal lawmakers in 2022, the efforts of cannabis activists were unable to result in the passage of any meaningful marijuana policy reform at the next level. With the change in the political climate in Washington, D.C., efforts this year will take a new focus.

“With Republicans taking over the House, any federal reform in the two years seems exceedingly unlikely. Fortunately, movement leaders have begun coalescing around a strategy to cut back on federal lobbying and instead push resources toward state-level reform,” Vicente said in an email. “These efforts are aiming to flip as many as 10 states to adult-use in just three years, which would not only open new markets for consumers, but also create intense pressure on Congress to pass legislation aligning federal law with the thirty-odd states where cannabis is legal for adults.”

As the new year begins, more than a half-dozen states are likely to consider legislation to reform their marijuana laws, with most activity centering in the South and Midwest regions. Outside those broad areas, Hawaii could be poised to make progress on the issue with a new governor at the helm, Democrat Josh Green, who included support for expanding the state’s current legalization of medical marijuana to include adult-use cannabis as part of his campaign for office last year. On January 11, Democratic state Rep. Jeanné Kapela announced her plans to introduce a recreational marijuana legalization bill, saying, “this year, we stand on the precipice of history.”

“We now have a roadmap for legalizing recreational cannabis in our islands,” Kapela said in a statement quoted by Marijuana Moment. “Legalizing cannabis is not just a matter of money, it is a matter of moralities.”

Snowden Stieber, a regulatory analyst with cannabis compliance technology firm Simplifya, notes that the bill has some hurdles to clear before it can get to Green’s desk, however.

“The Hawaii Senate President, Ron Kouchi, has already come out with statements expressing skepticism on any fast movement for cannabis legalization, and many elected officials are still waiting on the upcoming report from the Dual Use of Cannabis Task Force to guide their votes in the new year,” he said in an email. “While it is of course possible that the task force recommends full legalization, prior experience in other states would suggest that legislators will take their time with any report’s findings and that a sudden move toward legalization is unlikely.”

The South

Vicente believes three states in the South—Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina—could pass legislation to legalize medical marijuana this year. With the nearby states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida already demonstrating that a regulated marijuana industry can provide jobs and tax revenue, other states in the region are likely not far behind.

South Carolina, where Rep. Nancy Mace has become one of the few Republicans in Congress advocating for cannabis policy reform at the national level, is one of the few remaining states that still hasn’t legalized marijuana in any form. But reform is popular with the state’s residents, with a Winthrop University poll conducted before last year’s midterm elections showing that more than 75% of voters support the legalization of medical cannabis. This year, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have pre-filed separate medical marijuana legalization bills for the 2023 legislative session. But Simplifya regulatory analyst Justin Bedford isn’t optimistic about the fate of the legislation.

“Though these may seem like promising developments, history suggests that South Carolina still has a long way to go before any form of commercial legalization occurs,” he wrote in an email. “All 14 cannabis-related bills that were deliberated during the 2022 legislative session failed to pass, with most dying in the early stages of development. Nothing has changed in the state’s sociopolitical environment that would suggest anything will be different this year.”

In North Carolina, the state Senate passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in June 2022, but the House of Representatives declined to take up the legislation. Brian Fitzpatrick, chairman and CEO of cannabis software developer Qredible Inc, notes that public support for medical marijuana legalization is strong, and if a bill makes it to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, he’s likely to sign it into law.

“A poll carried out in January 2021 by Elon University found that 73% of North Carolinians supported medical cannabis,” Fitzpatrick said in an email. “A subsequent poll in May 2022 showed that support had increased to 82% across bipartisan lines. I believe that the governor is aware of this and will fully support the legalization of a medical cannabis bill in 2023.”

In Kentucky, where an executive order from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear decriminalizing medical marijuana went into effect on New Year’s Day, a bill to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis was unveiled by lawmakers on January 7. The measure, Senate Bill 51, would legalize and regulate the “possession, cultivation, production, processing, packaging, transportation, testing, marketing, sale and use of medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis,” according to a report from the online resource Business Insurance. With Kentucky being one of the nation’s largest hemp producers, industry insiders believe the legislation has a good chance of success this year.

The Midwest and Surrounding States

Several states in the Midwest could make advancements in cannabis policy reform in 2023. In Ohio, voters could get the chance to vote on a cannabis legalization measure championed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which was kept off the ballot for the November midterm election after legal challenges. Last week, Secretary of State Frank LaRose reintroduced the proposal, which would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and levy a 10% tax on commercial cannabis products. If the state legislature doesn’t approve the measure within four months, the coalition can collect signatures to put the proposal before the votes in the fall. Trent Woloveck, chief commercial director of cannabis commerce platform Jushi, believes legalization efforts have an even chance of success in Ohio this year.

“It is very unlikely that the legislature acts on the initiated stature in the next four months, but reasonably likely that the Coalition will be able to gather the additional required signatures for the effort to make the ballot,” he says. “While polling would suggest a ballot initiative legalizing cannabis would pass, the Senate president and other legislators disagree. And, even if voters approved an initiated statute, the legislature would have unrestricted authority to repeal or materially revise legalization.”

Like Hawaii, Pennsylvania has a new governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro, who has expressed support for legalizing recreational marijuana. The issue has been stymied in years past by Republican lawmakers, but a new Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives may help the chances at success.

“While we’ve heard some interest from both sides of the aisle in previous years, conversations about legalization seem to be happening among a much larger group of legislators with increased frequency and specificity,” Woloveck says. “It also sounds like many legislators, including several previously unwilling to engage in any cannabis-related discussions, now acknowledge something has to be done about the illicit market and to stop revenue from flowing to neighboring states where people can buy legal, regulated cannabis for non-medical purposes.”

After legalizing low-potency THC edibles last year, cannabis policy experts say Minnesota could be the most likely state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2023. The state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) is now in charge of both the legislative and executive branches of government, and party leaders including Gov. Tim Walz have said that cannabis legalization will be a priority for 2023. Last Wednesday, a bill sponsored by DFL lawmakers Rep. Zack Stephenson and Sen. Lindsey Port received the approval of a legislative committee, with more hearings on the measure to come.

In Oklahoma, where 10% of adults hold cards to participate in the state’s liberal medical marijuana program, voters will decide on a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis in March. If passed, State Question 820 would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. The measure also contains provisions to expunge past convictions for marijuana-related offenses. Proponents of the measure had hoped it would appear before voters during the November midterm elections, but a delay in certifying petition signatures and legal challenges from opponents prevented its inclusion on the ballot.

Lawmakers in other states including Georgia and Delaware could also take up measures to legalize marijuana this year, although the prospects for success in 2023 seem unlikely given the political climate in those states. But progress in cannabis policy will probably continue if the trend seen over the last decade goes on.

“Since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis, we’ve seen an average of two states per year pass adult-use laws,” Vicente notes. “I predict that 2023 will continue this trend with both Oklahoma and Minnesota looking very likely to legalize.”

The post Cannabis Legalization Could Make New Strides in 2023 appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Tony Shhnow Makes Getting Money Music

Weed plants sandwich a stop sign in the center of the Brooklyn Made stage. The DJ is playing a random assortment of half-decent rap music while Tony Shhnow is on stage pouring a drink into a red Solo cup. It’s Tony’s first tour with Cousin Stizz, and it’s his first time in Brooklyn this past April. The Cobb County rapper sports eyeglasses that have gold semi automatic guns on the sides, a green army jacket, a black Louie Vuitton belt, and a pair of clean white Air Force 1s. Tony opened with “EVEN ON A SUNDAY,” a track built entirely by plug-in style beats. When asked to define plug on a Zoom call, Tony replied, “It’s player ass trap music. It’s a player ass hustle Music. Getting money music. Sometimes your girl don’t want to hear you playing gangsta ass shit all the time. Sometimes she wants to be serenaded.” With plug, the instruments are synthetic and digital with compositions of tinkering bells, woozy flutes, and slow drums. “Plug is super chill, relaxed stoner-type stuff. But also super street Atlanta turnt. I feel like there’s a duality,” ATL producer Popstar Benny says over the phone.

Plug music results from Atlanta street tapes bootlegged on peer-to-peer sharing sites like Limewire and Frostwire and hosting sites like Datpiff and LiveMixtapes. “It was built on traditional Atlanta. It was mixing traditional Atlanta with the internet age,” Benny adds. Taking inspiration from the elegance of Zaytoven’s piano work, Plug adds a pop spin jam-packed with explosive digitized synths and video game sound bites. 

Plug Motivation is Tony’s new project, 24-tracks of money hustling, designer flexing, and drugs come entirely produced by the most prolific producers of the plug sub-genre: Big Emm, Cashcache, DJ YoungKash, Fashion Kor, GameBoomin, IceWater Black, JBand$, Mexikodro, Polo Boy Shawty, Popstar Benny, StoopidXool, and Youngstill. Plug Motivation is hosted by DJ Yung Rell, returning the days of vintage Gucci Mane in ‘08. Tony carries the spirit of old Atlanta with tracks like “Dats Me” and “Work Like This.” Flutes and snares come together with dreamy synths on the latter, with Tony showing pride in his swag and coming clean about his “bad bitch problem.” The entirety of Plug Motivation was recorded in Tony’s kitchen, no fancy studio equipment required. Tony takes inspiration from Gucci Mane’s Bird Flu 2, Lil Wayne’s No Ceilings and Carter III projects, as well as Zelda: Breath of the Wild while making the tape.

He seems excited to talk about the making of Plug Motivation over our Zoom call. For High Times, Tony discusses plug music, its purpose, the songs of his new project, and the difference between mixtapes and albums in 2022. Throughout the call, he smokes Metro Bloomin’ branded flower in a blunt, puffing between responses. 

High Times: Last week you just dropped Plug Motivation. When did you start recording that?

Tony Shhnow: I started recording what I felt as soon as I got off tour. Because Reflextions was damn near done when I got off tour. So Plug Motivation was definitely music I had fresh off tour trying to go into transition to the next project.

HT: Plug Motivation is a play on Jeezy’s Thug Motivation. What made you want to use that as the theme?

Tony Shhnow: Well, Mexikodro came up with the title. I got to attest that to him. I just applied my own style to it. I applied the theme to it. He picked the title and I just made it, I brought it to life.

HT: What I like about the tape a lot is that it brings back that old ATL mixtape aesthetic. What’s the difference now between a mixtape and an album? And I feel like Plug Motivation distinguishes that.

Tony Shhnow: For sure. I feel like a mixtape is raw music. It’s raw. It’s not really looking to be polished type shit. It can be, it’s music recorded in a kitchen or it can be in the trap. It could be, it’s something that it’s not meant to be pop or be on the billboards, necessarily. I’m not looking to be on the radio. I’m looking to be in the trap. I’m looking to be in the streets. It’s not a project aimed to please the average listener. Mixtapes aren’t aimed to please your fans. That’s what I feel like the major difference is.

HT: You also dropped the ShadowBanned mixtape before Plug Motivation. Rappers don’t do that anymore where they rap on each other’s beats for a whole project. It’s a lost art. 

Tony Shhnow: Yeah. That’s why… It’s hip hop to me though. That’s why I did the BBC project. I ain’t going to lie to you. I’ve been one to do the rapping on other people’s beats that were my peers. But I felt like I had to wait a second until it was the right moment. And right now I feel like it was definitely a good moment to do it.

HT: Do you think this whole streaming era ruined the identity of mixtapes nowadays?

Tony Shhnow: Yeah. It did a little bit. It did a little bit. But I still feel like there’s a space for it. I feel like just people have to, we got to adapt to it type shit. You don’t really see the premier artists doing that. People, the rap game normally imitates whatever the premier artist is doing at the time type shit. At the time when Lil Wayne did that, Tyga was doing that or Jacquees was doing that or Young Dro was doing that. It was multiple artists doing that at a time. But you don’t see the premier artists, which is Drake or Kendrick or J. Cole, you don’t see them doing that. They’re not going to imitate it.

HT: What is the big significance of having someone host your mixtapes? Because DJ Yung Rell hosted a few of your tapes.

Tony Shhnow: Yeah. I feel like that role is a lost art form in hip hop. So it’s important to me to keep pushing him or keep pushing that narrative type shit because I feel like hip hop needs that. That’s what I grew up on. That’s what a lot of these kids don’t get to see. You know what I mean? It’s almost like a narrator.

HT: I think it definitely is a lost art form because you don’t hear DJ Scream or Evil Empire as often anymore.

Tony Shhnow: Because a lot of them guys that’s older, they’re successful as fuck now, they not doing it no more, they just successful as fuck. So they don’t have time to do it. They changed ventures. They might have a label now or they might have a clothing line now. They just aren’t into it. Because like I said before to go back into the main, nobody’s calling them to come do something. You feel me? Tyler was the last big dude I saw doing it.

HT: On Plug Motivation, you kept the sound with strictly plug producers. So why’d you keep it so inclusive? What inspired that?

Tony Shhnow: I was already planning on making a plug project. Nah. When ‘Dro gave me that title, I feel like I had to keep it true to being plug. I had to keep it true to that. I feel like it’s a misconception about plug music. I just made the project to clarify what it is. I even used the old plug. I tried to show y’all exactly what plug was and what plug is now.

HT: How important was it to get everyone’s contributions for this project?

Tony Shhnow: I feel like it was very important on the producer end to make sure I tapped in what each producer that was a part of the Beats Plugs type shit and as far as the new culture. I feel like I can do the rapping. So I leave everything else to them, I try to make sure I work with the best producers, or the best DJ, the best director.

HT: One of my favorite songs is “Hell’s Hot” because I never heard you so angry before. Why were you so mad?

Tony Shhnow: I was dealing with this girl and really, it was a response to her. She just text me, “Hell is hot. I hope you burn, nigga.” I was like, “All right. Bitch, fuck you.

HT: That’s a mean text.

Tony Shhnow: On God. So I responded. I just use music as my therapy sometimes. So that’s just what that was. I honestly didn’t even know I was going to keep that song. People just started liking it.

HT: Based off the few drill songs you have on the ShadowBanned mixtape, how do you feel about drill music and how do you feel about the culture?

Tony Shhnow: It’s cool. I like it a little bit. I ain’t going to lie to you like I’m a super big fan of it because I’m not really into rap that talks too much about guns or violence type shit. I’m just super not heavy on it. The drill wave in Chicago was cool to me but I didn’t look at it that much. I just ain’t, I’m more of a fan of just player music. Talking about getting money or smoking weed. I like Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y or Lil Wayne. I like Gucci but I don’t like his songs when he talking about just shooting shit up all the time.

HT: That’s understandable. I can tell you’re on the fence with drill music.

Tony Shhnow: Yeah. I’m like, eh. Like I said I want to do it but just a little more player. I really fuck with, I fuck with, what’s that dude name? Damn, what’s that dude name? They dropped the Too Slizzy Too Sexy tape.

HT: Cash Cobain and Chow Lee.

Tony Shhnow: Yeah, bro. I’m fucking with them. Something that make the hoes move. Don’t get me wrong. The drill shit is cool. But I like the songs that the hoes get to moving with the girls. You know what I mean? I want girls to dance. I don’t want to shoot; I don’t have a stand-off [laughs].

The post Tony Shhnow Makes Getting Money Music appeared first on High Times.

Athens, Georgia on Cusp of Major Decriminalization Ordinance

The city of Athens, Georgia is on the brink of a significant drug reform, with the Athens-Clarke County Legislative Review Committee passing a measure that is being hailed as “Georgia’s most comprehensive marijuana decriminalization ordinance.”

The ordinance, which was approved unanimously by the committee last week, “would reduce the penalties for possession of misdemeanor amounts of marijuana (defined as less than 28 grams) by making such infractions a 1$ fine,” according to Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which highlighted some of its advocacy efforts in Athens-Clarkes County in a blog post on Thursday.

The group says it has been “lobbying Athens Clarke county to reduce penalties for cannabis possession” since 2017, and that it was ultimately “able to bring together community stakeholders and local officials before the legislative review committee to hatch out a plan of attack.”

Once implemented, the ordinance would make “possessing under 28 grams of any marijuana product a civil infraction,” according to Students for Sensible Drug Policy, while also enshrining the “already common practices by the District Attorney and Athens Clarke County Police not to prosecute or arrest citizens; 19 other municipalities across Georgia have already passed similar ordinances.

The ordinance will help Athens, the home of the University of Georgia, stand apart in a state that has been slow to embrace cannabis reform.

After the vote by the committee last week, Raiden Washington, the University of Georgia Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter president said, that drug policy “that provides equitable access and harm reduction resources is a non-partisan issue.”

“The Drug War has affected all communities across identity and political lines, whether that’s due to losing loved ones to overdoses or incarceration. It’s time we stand together for our entire community’s betterment,” Washington said. “The tools of the masters have been used by those who are oppressed.”

Students for Sensible Drug Policy noted that Georgia is “one of only 19 states that still imposes jail time for simple possession of marijuana, and one of only 13 that lacks a compassionate medical cannabis law.”

“The criminalization of drug possession fuels the US and Georgian mass criminalization system. GA has 183 jails in 159 counties. Georgia’’s total county jail population in 2019 was 45,340. There were 420,000 people on probation in the state,” Jeremy Sharp, SSDP’s South Eastern Regional Director, wrote in the blog post on Thursday. “There were 54,113 people under the jurisdiction of the GA Dept of Corrections in 34 state and private detention centers. The GA Department of Corrections had a staff of 9,169 employees and a budget of $1,205,012,739. 1 in 20 Georgians are on probation, parole, in Jail, or under some sort of supervision. The national average is 1 and 99. Private probation is an offender-funded system. Private companies with state or local contracts are allowed to charge individuals on probation with all kinds of extra fees and surcharges that far exceed their court fines. Failure to pay these fees can represent a violation of probation and risk re-entry into incarceration. Georgia has a long history of oppressive legal mechanisms used to disenfranchise.”

The lack of access to medicinal cannabis in the state has been particularly frustrating for advocates.

Lawmakers in Georgia legalized the treatment back in 2015 by passing the Haleigh’s Hope Act, which permitted qualifying patients to receive cannabis oil containing no more than 5% THC. But seven years after the bill’s passage, those patients still are unable to legally access the oil.

A bill that sought to change that failed in the Georgia state senate this spring.

The post Athens, Georgia on Cusp of Major Decriminalization Ordinance appeared first on High Times.

From the Archives: Drugstore Cowboys (1977)

By George Butler

There are a lot of thieves in the South. I’ve seen police crime bulletins that list North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina as the top three states in crime rate. They’re also the hottest states for drugstore robberies, although Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee are also good pickins. In fact, according to a new state law, South Carolina pharmacies can no longer get insurance unless they are properly alarmed. Pharmacies are being hit all over the country, but the South is definitely the center of the action—maybe because Southerners tend to know more about pharmaceuticals. And towns tend to be smaller down here, with less sophisticated alarm systems and fewer police.

I’m 20 now, and I’ve been hitting stores for five years. But my first job was a doctor’s office. A friend had told me how to get in and out of the place. He had described it as a “truckload,” literally “a million dollars’ worth.” Well, a few days later, me and my main boy, J.C., were tripping on some acid and really freaking out. We couldn’t find a barb anywhere to come down with. It just so happened that at that moment we were driving by this office. I told J.C. we could get some downs there, and he was ready.

We parked his truck a mile away in the woods and took along two burlap sacks, some masking tape, socks for gloves and a sawed-off shotgun. I had to cut through five locked doors with my trusty Buck pocket knife. We ended up with four gallons of paregoric, 40 grams of sodium pentathol and a bunch of bullshit. Since this was our first heist, we really didn’t know what to look for. We just took as much as we could carry of anything that looked dopey.

On our way out we passed a drink machine blinking on and off in the front office. J.C. thought it was the cops and emptied both barrels into it. We hauled ass and headed for Macon, only to find out that we had barely $200 or $300 in dope. A month or two later we hit a real store and had a good lick at that.

There are many ways to get certain kinds of pills short of robbery. The Class A drugs—narcotics—are the most popular down here. For these, wisdom teeth and abscesses are good to use on your dentist. I’ve always used the kidney-stone trip with doctors, putting some blood in the urine sample and using my best rap. These methods yield morphine, Dilaudid, Demerol, Pantopon and Percodan.

Forging prescriptions is another method. I haven’t done this very often, but I know the routine. Some friends and I once broke into a doctor’s office, found the script pads and forged them for Dilaudid. Then we left two people there —a guy to play doctor and a woman to be his receptionist and answer the phone. We cashed the scripts all over town. If a pharmacist became a little suspicious, he just called the office and we were covered. Since we were in a fairly large city, we ended up with over a thousand pills.

Who does stores? I’ve done them with black dudes and New York Puerto Ricans, but most of the guys are middle-class white boys. Most are dope fiends out to get high, but others are only in it for the money and don’t even get off themselves. Some go for the barbs and speed, but junkies have been doing it for years. Charlie Moore, an 80-year-old patient in the Veteran’s Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, told me he started stealing dope when morphine went to $40 an ounce. He hit his last store when he was 76 and broke his foot on the way out. Old Charlie is a living legend, a story by himself. The state narcotics commissioner, Mr. Woods, told me Charlie was the best in the business.

It’s hard to tell in advance what a store is worth; they vary according to the prescriptions they fill most. My share in the job I’m now doing time for was 300 No. 4 Dilaudid, 275 Percodan, 400 Quaaludes and Sopors (300 mg), 175 Optimil and Parest (400 mg), 500 Nembutal (100 mg), 200 Seconal (100 mg), 200 3-grain Tuinal, 200 3-grain Amytal, 300 Desoxyn and assorted other kinds of speed, 175 Preludin (25 and 75 mg), 200 Biphetamine (Black Beauties) and 250 Amphaplex (10 and 20 mg). Amphaplex, put out by Palmedico in Columbia, South Carolina, is hands down the most famous speed in the South. The old ones would break down by cold-shaking, but buffers are added to the new ones to cut down their abuse potential, so they have to be cooked and strained. An average store will net about 10 to 15 grand if sold in quantity, but I’ve heard of people making as much as $60,000 on a single hit.

I usually fronted my speed and barbs to my tight boys down at the university. They sold singles—speed to study and downs to party. I sold the most expensive hard drugs myself. I didn’t see much of the good stuff, though, because me and my old lady can really get down. We used to get to where we were shootin’ three or four No. 4 Dilaudid at a time. She was brought up on Thai scag, though, and likes heroin better. I like the head of heroin, too, but the rush no way to describe it—it gives me a hard that just won’t quit. Maybe that’s the reason she’s still around.

My tight man, Fat Boy Turner, who’s now doing 25 for armed robbery, likes Desoxyn best. This speed’s good enough to make a 17-year-old preacher’s son get out his gun and go hunting. Of course, when it comes to downs, Quaalude is the national favorite. It’s a 714 generation; everybody’s after the big Lude. But all bullshit aside, the junkies are the real cowboys. They do it for the real physical need. For the rest of us, there’s the drugstore addiction itself—the action, not the dope. Like my ol’ roadie, Jerry Hogg, told me, “Just imagine yourself broke and dope sick, trying to keep it off your mind. Then suddenly there it is, a sure-fire lick. You see it, you feel it, and then the hard part: you do it.” The last and best part is crawling into your car and getting away with a $30,000 score. Everything’s cool until that “cowboy fever” strikes and you’re ready to do it again. That’s why we’re all sittin’ here in prison. You can’t quit. It’s like bustin’ one nut; you gotta go back for the other.

After doing a store, I used to like to go home to Covena, Georgia. I liked to turn on all my home boys with barb parties. Us Ohoopee River swamp boys used to really get down. I’ve seen some of them down nine three-grain Tuinals with a quart of white liquor. They’d be a-fightin’ and araisin’ sho-nuff hell, while the women’d be looser’n a lighter stump in a sand ridge.

Then we’d come to the hardest part: selling the stuff. In this police state you can never tell who’ll turn you in. I’ve never been caught while on the scene or leaving it. All my busts were the result of faulty rap partners. My tight boy Jerry, a Geechie from Charleston, South Carolina, sells his drugs in places like Joe’s Tackle Shop and to the prostitutes on Reynolds Avenue. He never rushes things, just makes himself available. His system must work, ’cause he’s been raiding stores for five years and never been convicted for it.

Selling in quantity is faster and safer but less profitable. One of our biggest takes happened like this: In August of ’74. me and my partner were on our way to the August Jam in Charlotte, North Carolina, when we spotted a good store. We went inside and J.C. helped me hide up in the bathroom ceiling before he split. After hours I slipped down, turned off the alarms, found the narcotics box and left. We went on to the concert and sold almost the whole store in singles. People from all over the country were copping from us instead of buying the street dope.

One little tip: before a job it’s always a good idea to call the store and ask if they can fill a certain prescription. Dilaudid is a good one to ask for, because if they have this, they’re sure to have anything else you’ll want. There are four basic ways to do a store: armed robbery, hiding inside and breaking out, breaking and entering, or just kicking in the door—grabbing what you can and splitting fast. This last method is called “healing them,” and it’s my favorite, although I’ve done all four. Armed robbery is fun because it gives you that ol’ Jesse James feeling. Hiding inside is the slickest and easiest, and B & E takes the most skill. But healing them is the one that really takes heart. You’re inside the store with all the alarms going off and only seconds to find the nare box and haul ass. I’ve done that one a lot and they say I’ve got a lotta heart, but my old lady and kids have it now. She says I’ll never see the inside of another store—not after hours, anyway. But I’ll never forget the rush in the nuts and head I used to feel running down the street with two full burlap sacks.

By the time I get out of here, if a man wants a store he’ll have to Bogart it with a gun. Of course, every store can be hit. A man just has to put his mind to it. With different stores you use different methods. Healing them is not always possible, since some places have the dope in safes or scattered on the back shelves. In these cases it takes too long to get it all together. Usually, though, it’s all kept in a locked box or drawer. Finding this is an instinct with me; it’s never taken me more than two minutes, even in a strange store.

Once in a South Carolina small town, two of my most solid partners and I planned to take a store. Tony, a Puerto Rican, and Jesse, a good Southern boy, had both made time before. Tony got his for armed robbery in Jersey, and Jesse, for stealing the chief of detectives’ exhibition pot from his office in Jesse’s hometown. Tony needed the money, Jesse needed the dope and I needed the rush.

I already had the place scoped out. The only hang-up was the police station right across the street. We parked in a factory parking lot a few blocks away. A strange car in a small town will get you nabbed faster than anything. Tony and Jesse pried open the back door while I hawked from beside the store. I was about to piss in my pants: the cops were sitting outside drinking coffee at 2:00 A.M.

When they finally got the door open, we ran inside straight for the prescription counter. Next thing I knew we were all running out again. Seems they had an intercom system connected directly to the police station. We got outside and saw everything was still cool, so Jesse went back in and turned down the volume on the intercom. He said they’d be more likely to notice if it was turned off completely.

Jesse was a bang-up thief, but he had a habit of stretching the truth a bit. In fact, he lied a lot. He’d been telling us he could crack a safe with a stethoscope. Well, on that night Tony’s wife, a nurse, just happened to have a stethoscope. Tony handed it to him, but he wriggled out of it by saying he had to have the electric type. I told him he was full of shit, and back in we went. I got the narcotics box while Tony gathered the paregoric and syringes on the shelves. I told Jesse to try the safe, although I knew he couldn’t do it. I’m finished loading my sacks when I look over and see Jesse acting like a real safe-cracker, blowing on his knuckles and everything, when suddenly the door of the safe opens. Jesse fell over and fainted. Of course, he never admitted it, but it was just a stroke of luck. Anyway, who cared, with $2,600 plus all the dope?

Like most convicts, I’ve sometimes thought a book on my life of crime would be a seller. It probably wouldn’t, but this opportunity to say a few things has me walkin’ in tall cotton.

I’ve lived a good, hard, fast life these last six years. Now I have to pay back four years in return. And, as they say here, “Payback is a bitch.” Time has never bothered me before: I’ve been in countless jails, reformatories, chain-gang camps and penitentiaries. These four wouldn’t really bother me except that I’ve gone and fallen in love, something that’s strange and new to me. It’s something I’ve always managed to avoid or overcome, but now it’s got me by the balls and this time is really kicking my ass. I’ve grown tired of all this bullshit, and if my old lady sticks with me, I’m through with it. They give big time for drugstores these days, and Southern pens are rough. I’ve shot more dope than many people have ever seen, gotten my share of ass and spent plenty of money. All I’ve got to show for now, though, are a few scars on my arms, some good memories, and a woman who loves me. But in four years, who knows?

High Times Magazine, February 1977

Read the full issue here.

The post From the Archives: Drugstore Cowboys (1977) appeared first on High Times.

Georgia’s War on Delta-8 THC

Leigh Ann LaDuke was picking up her kids from school on the afternoon of Friday, March 4, when she heard the police had paid her business a visit while she was out. LaDuke is the sales manager of The Shoppe, a vape-supply and CBD store in Fort Oglethorpe, GA. In addition to CBD oil and tinctures, vaporizer batteries and e-juices, The Shoppe also stocked products containing Delta-8 THC.

An increasingly common and somewhat controversial cannabinoid, Delta-8 THC is derived from source material originating in the federally legal hemp plant. However, since Delta-8 produces a high similar to federally illegal cannabis’ Delta-9 THC—and since you can buy it online, at smoke shops, gas stations or anywhere else a merchant stocks it on shelves—Delta-8 products are popular in states where cannabis is still illegal, such as Georgia

This also means Delta-8 is very unpopular with law enforcement. And in at least three jurisdictions in Georgia, local sheriff’s offices and district attorneys appear to have launched an all-out assault on Delta-8 THC—despite state and federal laws allowing the drug, advocates and attorneys told Cannabis Now. 

It all adds up to what increasingly looks like a desperate, last-ditch War on Drugs battle in the final years before nationwide legalization, waged by what even a state judge worries are “rogue” law enforcement officials.

The Letter and the Law

Upon her return to work, LaDuke discovered a letter left from a detective from the local Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office. The communication, signed by Catoosa County Sheriff Gary R. Sisk, informed her that sheriff’s representatives had “purchased items from your store and had them tested,” and that they contained a “significate [sic] level of Delta 9.”

“It’s your responsibility to know what you are selling and what it contains especially when I’m telling you it’s a violation of Georgia law,” Sisk’s letter continued, adding that The Shoppe had until April 30 to remove “these illegal items” and if they didn’t, “We already have the evidence needed to move forward with prosecutions and seizures.” 

Puzzled and upset, LaDuke and Joe King, owner of The Shoppe, went to the sheriff’s office to sort things out. They had certificates of authentication showing their products were well within state limits, which say anything derived from hemp, cannabis with 0.3% Delta-9 THC or less, is legal to sell.

They were told that the county has an ongoing problem with “people actively overdosing on cannabis.” The sheriff’s office had purchased products from The Shoppe and sent them off for their own testing, and “they tested higher than the Georgia law allowed,” said LaDuke, who didn’t believe a word of what she heard.  

“We asked for proof and what was purchased that day, and we were refused,” she said. “We also offered COAs for our products and were told that ours do not matter because they tested our products.” 

The Catoosa Sheriff’s Office didn’t  return a call for comment to Cannabis Now. But according to Ryan Ralston, the executive director of Peachtree NORML, the Georgia branch of the organization, The Shoppe is one of several stores in at least three Georgia jurisdictions to be subjected to a Delta-8 crackdown: Gwinnett County, east of Atlanta; and Madison County, in northeast Georgia, in addition to Catoosa County, in the northwest of the state on the border with Tennessee.

In these places, local law enforcement seem to be waging a sort of war of choice, a last stand of the War on Drugs.

Rogue DAs and a Rearguard Action

“The vast majority, if not 99 percent, of the DAs and sheriffs and chiefs of police have recognized that Delta-8 is, in fact, lawful,” Ralston said. What’s happening, he says, is that “a couple of rogue DAs or sheriffs have taken it upon themselves to declare Delta-8 unlawful and then [move to] take enforcement action.”

Ralston has a theory on why this is ramping up now.

“You have the reinvention of Reefer Madness here in Georgia,” he said.

Ralston noted that 2022 is an election year, and conservative sheriffs up for re-election (such as Sisk) may be trolling for a wedge issue. In several instances, law enforcement officials have claimed—so far, without showing any proof—that children have been accessing Delta-8 products. 

Others speculated that Sisk may also have encouragement from a local multi-jurisidictional drug task force. But what he doesn’t have is support from the state of Georgia itself. 

After Patsy Austin-Gatson, the district attorney in Gwinnett County, declared in January that selling Delta-8 was a felony offense and tried to enforce a county-wide ban—staging at least two raids, filing felony charges against at least one individual and seizing millions of dollars’ worth of product, according to estimates—two local vape shops sued to stop her. 

In response, a state judge imposed a monthlong restraining order, staying Austin-Gatson’s hand.

“I have concerns that this may or may not be a rogue DA,” said Judge Craig Schwall, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Austin-Gatson’s office didn’t return a telephone message to Cannabis Now seeking comment. 

Tom Church, one of the attorneys handling the cases on behalf of the offended vape shops, confirmed on April 22 that the monthlong temporary restraining orders imposed on Austin-Gatson, have been appealed by the state attorney general’s office. 

That means the legality of Delta-8 in Georgia may ultimately hinge on a judge’s order. In the meantime, Austin-Gatson has declared Delta-8 products OK if they’re not food products—meaning anyone selling Delta-8 gummies, possibly the drug’s most popular form, is still at risk, Church said.

“A lot of people are paying attention to this lawsuit, which is good—we need clarity in the law,” he said. “Of course, we think it’s unambiguous that Delta 8, Delta-10 and other cannabinoids as long as it’s not Delta-9 can be put in all types of products.”

The War on Drugs Continues in Georgia

In the meantime, The Shoppe is teetering on the brink of viability. Though the letter was the only warning LaDuke received, that was enough.

Rightly fearful of a raid, LaDuke and King pulled all their Delta-8 products, severely reducing their sales, but even that hasn’t ended their problems with the law. The Shoppe’s remaining customers “are getting pulled over” on their way in or out of the store, she said, further discouraging business. 

According to Peachtree NORML’s Ralston, the Delta-8 campaign could be a politically motivated distraction. All the areas where the crackdowns have occurred have something in common: violent crime rates “3% to 5% higher” than statewide rates, he said, plus the ever-worsening opioid overdose crisis. 

Looking decisive or tough on something easy—such as federally legal products sitting on a shelf in a store—might be a good way to direct attention elsewhere. The same week LaDuke received her letter, a neighboring county recorded five fentanyl overdoses, she said. 

“Yet, we’re the issue,” she said. “Busting several prominent businesses wouldn’t only make them look good, but fund them.”

“I feel like we’re all in a movie or a dream.”

The post Georgia’s War on Delta-8 THC appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Georgia’s War on Delta-8 THC

Leigh Ann LaDuke was picking up her kids from school on the afternoon of Friday, March 4, when she heard the police had paid her business a visit while she was out. LaDuke is the sales manager of The Shoppe, a vape-supply and CBD store in Fort Oglethorpe, GA. In addition to CBD oil and tinctures, vaporizer batteries and e-juices, The Shoppe also stocked products containing Delta-8 THC.

An increasingly common and somewhat controversial cannabinoid, Delta-8 THC is derived from source material originating in the federally legal hemp plant. However, since Delta-8 produces a high similar to federally illegal cannabis’ Delta-9 THC—and since you can buy it online, at smoke shops, gas stations or anywhere else a merchant stocks it on shelves—Delta-8 products are popular in states where cannabis is still illegal, such as Georgia

This also means Delta-8 is very unpopular with law enforcement. And in at least three jurisdictions in Georgia, local sheriff’s offices and district attorneys appear to have launched an all-out assault on Delta-8 THC—despite state and federal laws allowing the drug, advocates and attorneys told Cannabis Now. 

It all adds up to what increasingly looks like a desperate, last-ditch War on Drugs battle in the final years before nationwide legalization, waged by what even a state judge worries are “rogue” law enforcement officials.

The Letter and the Law

Upon her return to work, LaDuke discovered a letter left from a detective from the local Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office. The communication, signed by Catoosa County Sheriff Gary R. Sisk, informed her that sheriff’s representatives had “purchased items from your store and had them tested,” and that they contained a “significate [sic] level of Delta 9.”

“It’s your responsibility to know what you are selling and what it contains especially when I’m telling you it’s a violation of Georgia law,” Sisk’s letter continued, adding that The Shoppe had until April 30 to remove “these illegal items” and if they didn’t, “We already have the evidence needed to move forward with prosecutions and seizures.” 

Puzzled and upset, LaDuke and Joe King, owner of The Shoppe, went to the sheriff’s office to sort things out. They had certificates of authentication showing their products were well within state limits, which say anything derived from hemp, cannabis with 0.3% Delta-9 THC or less, is legal to sell.

They were told that the county has an ongoing problem with “people actively overdosing on cannabis.” The sheriff’s office had purchased products from The Shoppe and sent them off for their own testing, and “they tested higher than the Georgia law allowed,” said LaDuke, who didn’t believe a word of what she heard.  

“We asked for proof and what was purchased that day, and we were refused,” she said. “We also offered COAs for our products and were told that ours do not matter because they tested our products.” 

The Catoosa Sheriff’s Office didn’t  return a call for comment to Cannabis Now. But according to Ryan Ralston, the executive director of Peachtree NORML, the Georgia branch of the organization, The Shoppe is one of several stores in at least three Georgia jurisdictions to be subjected to a Delta-8 crackdown: Gwinnett County, east of Atlanta; and Madison County, in northeast Georgia, in addition to Catoosa County, in the northwest of the state on the border with Tennessee.

In these places, local law enforcement seem to be waging a sort of war of choice, a last stand of the War on Drugs.

Rogue DAs and a Rearguard Action

“The vast majority, if not 99 percent, of the DAs and sheriffs and chiefs of police have recognized that Delta-8 is, in fact, lawful,” Ralston said. What’s happening, he says, is that “a couple of rogue DAs or sheriffs have taken it upon themselves to declare Delta-8 unlawful and then [move to] take enforcement action.”

Ralston has a theory on why this is ramping up now.

“You have the reinvention of Reefer Madness here in Georgia,” he said.

Ralston noted that 2022 is an election year, and conservative sheriffs up for re-election (such as Sisk) may be trolling for a wedge issue. In several instances, law enforcement officials have claimed—so far, without showing any proof—that children have been accessing Delta-8 products. 

Others speculated that Sisk may also have encouragement from a local multi-jurisidictional drug task force. But what he doesn’t have is support from the state of Georgia itself. 

After Patsy Austin-Gatson, the district attorney in Gwinnett County, declared in January that selling Delta-8 was a felony offense and tried to enforce a county-wide ban—staging at least two raids, filing felony charges against at least one individual and seizing millions of dollars’ worth of product, according to estimates—two local vape shops sued to stop her. 

In response, a state judge imposed a monthlong restraining order, staying Austin-Gatson’s hand.

“I have concerns that this may or may not be a rogue DA,” said Judge Craig Schwall, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Austin-Gatson’s office didn’t return a telephone message to Cannabis Now seeking comment. 

Tom Church, one of the attorneys handling the cases on behalf of the offended vape shops, confirmed on April 22 that the monthlong temporary restraining orders imposed on Austin-Gatson, have been appealed by the state attorney general’s office. 

That means the legality of Delta-8 in Georgia may ultimately hinge on a judge’s order. In the meantime, Austin-Gatson has declared Delta-8 products OK if they’re not food products—meaning anyone selling Delta-8 gummies, possibly the drug’s most popular form, is still at risk, Church said.

“A lot of people are paying attention to this lawsuit, which is good—we need clarity in the law,” he said. “Of course, we think it’s unambiguous that Delta 8, Delta-10 and other cannabinoids as long as it’s not Delta-9 can be put in all types of products.”

The War on Drugs Continues in Georgia

In the meantime, The Shoppe is teetering on the brink of viability. Though the letter was the only warning LaDuke received, that was enough.

Rightly fearful of a raid, LaDuke and King pulled all their Delta-8 products, severely reducing their sales, but even that hasn’t ended their problems with the law. The Shoppe’s remaining customers “are getting pulled over” on their way in or out of the store, she said, further discouraging business. 

According to Peachtree NORML’s Ralston, the Delta-8 campaign could be a politically motivated distraction. All the areas where the crackdowns have occurred have something in common: violent crime rates “3% to 5% higher” than statewide rates, he said, plus the ever-worsening opioid overdose crisis. 

Looking decisive or tough on something easy—such as federally legal products sitting on a shelf in a store—might be a good way to direct attention elsewhere. The same week LaDuke received her letter, a neighboring county recorded five fentanyl overdoses, she said. 

“Yet, we’re the issue,” she said. “Busting several prominent businesses wouldn’t only make them look good, but fund them.”

“I feel like we’re all in a movie or a dream.”

The post Georgia’s War on Delta-8 THC appeared first on Cannabis Now.