DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - Longtime supporters of legalizing marijuana agreed an undercover FOX 5 I-Team investigation bothered them, too.
The investigation exposed a company that claimed it manufactured and marketed marijuana-laced snacks to metro high school students. A recent high school student himself, 19-year-old Addea Simmons sits in the Douglas County jail facing five felony counts related to Schedule 1 drug dealing.
"I don't want it sold to our youth," stressed Tom McCain, the executive director for the Peachtree chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "I don't want it sold in schools. I can't agree with it."
We talked to McCain in NORML's Hapeville office, a fake marijuana plant on the coffee table and plenty of pro-marijuana literature stacked on the shelves.
Just because McCain sits in an office surrounded by all-things cannabis, it doesn't mean he thinks cannabis is for all ages.
“Because there are still a lot of questions," he explained. “They're really afraid it's going to interfere with the development of the brain in young folks.”
That's why authorities say they're taking the Trill Treats case so seriously.
The FOX 5 I-Team caught Addea Simmons running a unique operation. Just order from his Trill Treats Instagram page, pay $100 cash and you'd soon get what he promised was a dozen marijuana-laced snacks. Pay $5 more and you could have it personally delivered. The site even surveyed customers on which high school they attended.
Among Simmons' 4137 Instagram followers, one complained “you need more people selling at Westlake one person keep selling out in the morning”
The reply – “I have two more people up there beside the one girl”
“This dude set everything up as a business," complained one Fulton County school parent. "Targeting high school kids.”
Three Fulton County school parents who asked us not to show their faces say kids have wound up hospitalized after eating marijuana edibles. The high comes later than with a marijuana cigarette, causing inexperienced users to sometimes eat too much.
A 19-year-old in Colorado began hallucinating after eating an entire marijuana cookie instead of the suggested 1/3rd serving size. He fell to his death from a 4th floor balcony. An older friend had bought the cookie from a licensed Colorado dispensary.
“It's not a big deal because it's a snack. It's a treat. It's sweet," explained another Fulton County school parent. "And you don't know how much to consume because you're a kid. You don't know."
Peachtree NORML McCain's solution: make pot legal for adults and not as many kids will think it's so cool.
"If you reduce the market, on the black market, by putting it behind counters, and by regulating the sales of it, then you take part of that off the general black market which reduces what goes on in the high schools," McCain theorized.
You may not be surprised, but the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police does not agree.
"I think it's the opposite," argued Major Brandon Gurley of the Brookhaven Police Department.
He and other law enforcement worry about increasingly potent marijuana that would be sold off the books to kids, putting them in even bigger danger.
"I think we send a message that it's safe," Gurley pointed out. "It's going to take away the argument that parents and others have over young people telling them these are reasons why it's unsafe. Well, if it's legal, it must be safe."
There are eight states in our country plus the District of Columbia where -- if you're 21 or older -- you can use marijuana for recreational purposes. But according to a combination of studies in those states, the amount of underage users has not significantly gone up... or down. In Oregon and Colorado marijuana use among 12-17-year-olds dropped slightly compared to the previous year. In Alaska and Oregon, those numbers rose slightly. For kids, legalizing pot apparently makes little difference.
NORML's McCain brings a unique perspective to the pro-legalization side. A former middle Georgia chief deputy who worked in law enforcement for 15 years, McCain says he never made any misdemeanor marijuana arrests because he thought the law was selectively enforced.
"It just got where it didn't sit right for me," he explained.
McCain admits using marijuana daily now to treat back pain and his "demons" without having to rely on prescription painkillers.
Still, there's one question where he and current law enforcement agree 100 percent. Would he have busted Trill Treats and sent its founder to jail?
"Oh yeah," he answered without hesitation. "There's no doubt about it."