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Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Ga. lawmakers vote to outlaw sale of marijuana-flavored candy to minors

By SHANNON McCAFFREY - Associated Press Writer --

ATLANTA --Georgia lawmakers are once again pushing a bill that would ban retailers from selling to children lollipops, gumdrops and other candy flavored to taste like marijuana.
The Senate voted 42-3 on Tuesday to pass a measure targeting businesses that sell the candies with drug-inspired names such as "Kronic Kandy" and "Pot Suckers." Activists said it could be the first statewide ban of its kind.
A similar measure passed the House last year, and the two chambers must compromise on minor differences before sending the plan to Gov. Sonny Perdue.
This year the plan is being championed by a lawmaker with the most unlikely of names: Doug Stoner. That drew snickers from the chamber.
"I have no problem with the humor about my last name as long as it brings attention to the issue," said Stoner, a state senator and a Smyrna Democrat.
Marketers argue the treats are a harmless novelty and many advise retailers sell the candy only to customers 18 or older. They say the candies are flavored with hemp essential oil, a legal product which gives them the oily, grassy taste of marijuana.
Vote Hemp, a national organization that promotes the use of hemp products and tracks legislation, says the measure would make Georgia the first state to ban the sale of the candy to minors.
New Jersey lawmakers passed a resolution in 2005 urging the state attorney general to investigate the issue, according to the organization. The sale of marijuana-flavored candies has already been outlawed in the city of Chicago, Suffolk County, N.Y., Schaumburg, Ill., and parts of Alameda County, Calif.
Tom Murphy, the group's national outreach coordinator, called the Georgia measure "flawed."
"Vote Hemp understands the efforts of the Georgia General Assembly to stop the marketing and sale of marijuana-flavored candies, but we oppose (the bill) as it is currently written because it will damage the legitimate and legal hemp food industry," he said.
The proposal says the candies promote drug use and give children the "false impression that marijuana is fun and safe." It would ban the sale of "marijuana flavored products" to minors - anyone under 18 - and calls for a fine of up to $1,000 for each offense.
"The sale of marijuana flavored products, including lollipops and gum drops, which claim 'every lick is like taking a hit' is a marketing ploy that perpetuates an unhealthy culture and should not be permitted in the state of Georgia," it reads.
It was the third time a measure targeting marijuana-flavored candy has come up in three years. A similar measure passed the House last year but never reached a vote in the Senate. And a 2006 effort that would have banned all sales of the candy and threatened repeat offenders with prison time never reached a vote.
A group of high school students gathered in the halls of the Capitol to support the measure, warning that the treats could be a sort of "gateway candy" that encourages kids to try marijuana and other drugs.
"It tastes like the real thing, so they think the real thing is really cool," said Yasmina Pierre, a 15-year-old sophomore who said she's seen the candy sold on the streets.
"They're buying it because they're getting a sense: 'If I can buy this candy, I can do the real thing,'" she said. "If we don't stop it, who is going to do it?"
Associated Press Writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.

by: Woodstock Candy


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