By Rob DiRienzo
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ATLANTA - Some Georgia pharmacies will start selling cannabis-infused products to patients who meet a strict set of criteria later this year, but some who could benefit say the red tape has made it impossible to get it legally.
Led by Democratic State Rep. Eric Bell, a coalition aimed at reforming Georgia’s weed laws announced at a news conference Friday they’re taking their fight to the Gold Dome.
"We believe in restorative justice and decriminalization of cannabis in Georgia," said State Rep. Bell, announcing plans to introduce a bill reforming the state’s weed laws at the start of the next legislative session.
Under the state’s current law, before the end of the year qualifying patients can buy low-dose THC oils at some pharmacies.
But the New Georgia Project Action Fund argued the law is way too strict, adding that anyone else with the plant in all but 12 Georgia cities are considered criminals.
"That’s just 2% of our state cities," said Takia Tinsley, an activist in favor Bell’s bill. "The other 98% unfairly target Black people, even though Blacks and whites and other races in our demographic statistically use marijuana at similar rates."
A clinical director at a Metro Atlanta methadone clinic said her patients don’t qualify under the current law, but could benefit tremendously.
"Individuals that we serve that have successfully refrained from the abuse of illicit opiates now find themselves in the battle with the stigma of THC use," said Joelyn Alfred, the clinical director at the Lakeland Centers.
Earlier this year, a bill similar to Bell’s went up in smoke in committee.
But these activists said they plan to turn up the heat on lawmakers.
"We demand expungement of petty marijuana offenses, more opportunities for Black Georgians to start medicinal marijuana businesses and of course full legalization of marijuana in Georgia."
This coalition has an incredibly uphill battle at the state capitol, especially without bipartisan backing.
They would need the support of at least some Georgia Republicans – who have been very reluctant to come out in favor of relaxed marijuana laws.