GPB's Sarah Rose reports on rapper "T.I." Harris' recent partnership with a Georgia medicinal marijuana company.

Hip-hop artist Clifford Joseph "T.I." Harris Jr.

Rapper Clifford Joseph "T.I." Harris Jr. performs onstage. The Atlanta-based entrepreneur recently joined a venture into Georgia's legal medicinal marijuana industry.

In a sign of the continuing public shift on attitudes towards the use of cannabis across the nation and in Georgia, rapper Clifford Joseph "T.I." Harris Jr. has partnered with a local cannabis company, Harvest Select, as an investor and equity partner they expand their operations across the state.

Harvest Select, which describes itself as a "cannabis and retail company," has a retail store in historic downtown Roswell called "CBD Store and More," which features the company's CBD products, as well as other national brands.

While recreational marijuana use is still illegal in Georgia, efforts over the last several years have seen increased legalization of medicinal use. In 2015, then-Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 1 into effect, which permitted the use of up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil containing up to 5% percent THC for patients suffering from various illnesses. In early 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law into effect allowing medical marijuana to be grown and sold within the state. Vendors are now competing for those lucrative contracts to grow cannabis in Georgia.

Harvest Select CEO Kevin P. Quirk said now is the perfect time for his company to expand.

"It's finally coming to fruition in Georgia," he said. "We're a Georgia company, we're focused on Georgia and Georgia's patients. There's just a lot of people out there, particularly now with the COVID environment and the new normal that really could benefit from the medical cannabis."

Quirk is no stranger to the Atlanta business world. He is a former Coca-Cola employee who eventually left the company to start several of his own, including an organic juice startup. It was through this effort that he began to learn about CBD, short for cannibidol, and its growing presence in the organics space.

"One year there were five; the next year there were 55," he said of the number of cannabis companies at organic trade shows. "So that really piqued my interest in the cannabis space."

Quirk was then introduced to Harris by Lamont Bradley, a fellow Atlanta businessman who knew the Atlanta rapper and entrepreneur.

"I love what he represents," Quirk said. "I love how he represents it. So we set up a meeting and long story short, we were simpatico on the philosophy and our mutual desire to help Atlanta and Georgians particularly. And now he's not just partner but an investor."

While Quirk has said he hasn't asked or anticipate for Harris to lobby on the company's behalf to city officials, he does believe hope that Harris will be a vocal advocate for what he believes are the benefits of medicinal cannabis.

"We're not going to put any any blinders or any restraints on him," he said. "We're just happy to have his counsel as we move forward through, you know, our charitable issues and, you know, in that direction."

Harris declined GPB News' request for an interview, but released a statement:

“After meeting with the team and hearing about their vision to focus on Georgians and underserved communities, I knew I wanted to be involved. Together, I believe we can knock down barriers in the medical cannabis industry, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can achieve.” 

In a press release, the company has said that, as part of their partnership with Harris, will "white label certain product lines for the celebrity businessman currently under development and scheduled to launch in early 2021."

Harvest Select is one of several companies hoping to win Georgia's medical marijuana license going into next year. Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, although the bill is now stalled in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.