On the Thursday, April 27 edition of Georgia Today: Medical cannabis is finally coming to Georgia; a new Lyme disease vaccine is in the works; and Major League Baseball has shut down the Braves' home run celebration

GA Today Podcast

Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, April 27. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode. After years of waiting, it appears medical marijuana is finally coming to Georgia. A new vaccine is being developed to fight Lyme disease just in time for tick season. And Major League Baseball puts an end to the Braves' unique home run celebration. We'll tell you why These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Medical cannabis oil

A bottle of medical cannabis oil and a cannabis plant.

Story 1

Peter Biello: The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission reached a historic milestone yesterday, issuing licenses for the state's first five medical cannabis dispensaries. The dispensaries are located in Cobb, Bibb, and Chatham counties. The state list of eligible patients for medical marijuana has more than doubled to over 27,000 patients since 2015. Additional licenses can be issued as more patients register. Dispensaries could be open for business as early as this summer.


Story 2

Peter Biello: Two members of Georgia's congressional delegation introduced legislation yesterday to establish more oversight of the federal prison system. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Lucy McBath and Sen. Jon Ossoff. It would require the Justice Department's inspector general to inspect all U.S. Bureau of Prisons facilities and report findings and recommendations to Congress and the public.



Story 3

Peter Biello: The remains of a U.S. Army corporal killed during the Korean War and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor have been identified 73 years after he was declared missing. Luther H. Story of Buena Vista, Ga., was awarded the nation's highest award for bravery for his actions during an intense attack by the North Korean army on Sept. 1, 1950. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol yesterday participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Korean War Memorial. While they were there, the leaders met with Story's living relative.



Story 4

Peter Biello: A pharmaceutical company is developing a vaccine to prevent Lyme disease, an illness spread by ticks. GPB's Ellen Eldredge has more.

Ellen Eldridge: Symptoms of Lyme can include headaches, fatigue and joint pain, making a diagnosis difficult. While not common in Georgia, the disease can make people very sick. The new Moderna vaccine hopes to prevent it. Rachel Draddy was 14 and living in Georgia when she started feeling symptoms of dizziness, nausea and fatigue.

Rachel Draddy: Basically, slowly over time, more and more symptoms developed and things just progressed and I was unable to get any answers. What was tricky is because of the slow progression, there were certain things that I didn't notice were symptoms right away.

Ellen Eldridge: The Lyme vaccine will use mRNA technology, which was first widely used in the vaccine to prevent COVID-19. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


Seven people are shown holding shovels in a groundbreaking ceremony in a wooded environment.

Officials broke ground on a 2.5-mile section of a pedestrian and bike trail along the Chattahoochee River near Mableton.

Credit: Cobb County Government

Story 5

Peter Biello: Local, state and federal officials broke ground this week on the first project of what some envision as a 100-mile long trail along the Chattahoochee River in the Atlanta area. The initial 2.5-mile section is in Mableton. George Dusenbury of the Trust for Public Lands says the idea is to show people what the trail called Chattahoochee Riverlands could look like from Buford to Newnan.

George Dusenbury: When you talk about something as grand as a 100-mile linear park with a trail with increased access to the river, you need to give people a sense of what that looks like. And with the Atlanta BeltLine you saw that happened when they completed the Eastside Trail. And people get out there and they could see it and they could experience it and they said, "Hey, I like this, I want that." And that's what this first section of this first project of the broader Chattahoochee Riverlands really is all about. It's allowing people to get out there to experience what the Riverlands can be and then to continue the incredible momentum we've seen already to date to make it happen.

Peter Biello: Dusenbury compares Chattahoochee Riverlands to Atlanta's popular pedestrian and bike greenway, the BeltLine. Its first project is expected to cost $44 million, funded by private and public sources, including $2.5 million in federal transportation funds earmarked by Georgia members of the U.S. House and Senate. The first project will connect Mapleton Parkway to Veterans Memorial Highway. It's being led by Cobb County, which expects to complete the project within three years.



Story 6

Peter Biello: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently issued an alert about a, quote, "sharp increase" in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine, which is also known as tranq or Philly dope. But the substance is not illegal. Xylazine is a sedative used by veterinarians on horses and other large animals. GPB's Ellen Eldridge has been following the opioid epidemic and its impact on Georgians. She reports that this combination of fentanyl and xylazine is particularly alarming to substance use disorder recovery advocates. GPB's Ellen Eldridge joins me now. Ellen, welcome.

Ellen Eldridge: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Peter Biello: So what is xylazine?

Ellen Eldridge: Xylazine is in a class of drugs known as Alpha-2 agonists. It's for medical purposes, for veterinary offices. It's a tranquilizer, a sedative. And it's being diverted — it has been being diverted — in the Philly area, northeast New Jersey, for many years, five, six years. And it's just now becoming more and more popular or its use is expanding. And that's because it is not illegal. It's not a controlled substance.

Peter Biello: And so what does it mean for people who inject fentanyl or other opioids?

Ellen Eldridge: Well, instead of heroin being cut with fentanyl, now it is more fentanyl as a base being cut with xylazine. And because xylazine is not narcotic, Narcan or naloxone won't revive somebody who's in an active overdose.

Peter Biello: And that's why it is particularly alarming for people who are concerned about substance use disorders.

Ellen Eldridge: That's one of the reasons. Another big reason is that the withdrawal from this drug is particularly difficult managing the care. Again, it's not a narcotic, so you can't manage it the same way you would manage somebody withdrawing off of an opioid. Dr. Bill Lynch is one of the pharmacists who traveled to Atlanta to warn health care providers who may not know how to manage withdrawal from xylazine addiction. He says that there are particular issues with wound care as well.

Dr Bill Lynch: They'll repeatedly shoot up in the same place. So now not only do you have the withdrawal, you have them not getting their xylazine, you have the painful injection sites being more painful. There's a lot of reasons why this person is going to sign against medical advice and go back to using.

Peter Biello: Wow. So that's a lot to take in.

Ellen Eldridge: It is. And again, just as you said, the issue isn't necessarily reviving somebody and saving the life. It's that they will then check out of the hospital against medical advice, go back to using. And it's just health care workers need to discover a way to manage the withdrawal.

Peter Biello: You mentioned at the outset that the DEA has issued an alert. What does that mean in practical terms? Because this drug, as we mentioned, was — is not illegal. Do veterinarians have any new guidance that they have to follow when they're prescribing this to someone who is caring for a large animal?

Ellen Eldridge: My understanding is that this alert is more for health care type workers, first responders, law enforcement. Veterinarians — I mean, it's not a controlled substance right now, so veterinarians ordering it and using it as intended isn't a problem. I don't know what the DEA will do. We've seen ketamine diverted from veterinary offices in the past.

Peter Biello: Ketamine is another animal tranquilizer.

Ellen Eldridge: That's correct. So at some point in the future, there will likely be more control over xylazine as well.

Peter Biello: And as far as I understand it, one large manufacturer of xylazine has recently stopped manufacturing it. What impact is that going to have?

Ellen Eldridge: That's correct. Some of the pharmacists who were at the summit said that there's a good chance that cartels will pick up the slack in distributing not only fentanyl, but also the xylazine.

Peter Biello: That's a scary prospect.

Ellen Eldridge: Yes.

Peter Biello: Yeah. Ellen Eldridge is our senior health care reporter based in Atlanta for GPB. Ellen, thank you so much for speaking with me.

Ellen Eldridge: Thank you for having me.

Peter Biello: And you can find more coverage of this at GPB.org/News.



Story 7

Peter Biello: And this final note, it looks like the Atlanta Braves will have to find a new way to celebrate home runs this season. Major League Baseball told the Braves that they can no longer sport an oversize baseball cap to celebrate home runs after the league heard complaints from New Era, the manufacturer of the official on-field cap. The Braves began the celebration after More Than Sports, a local sports memorabilia collector, gave the hat to Ozzie Albies and A.J. Minter during opening weekend.

And that's all we've got on today's edition of Georgia Today. We do appreciate you tuning in. If you'd like to read more about these stories or find the latest from our newsroom, you can check GPB.org/News. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast, so we will pop up in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon. And if you like what you're hearing, leave a review. That'll help other folks find us. If you've got suggestions on how to improve this podcast, how can we better serve you? We'd love to know. Send us an email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org.

I'm Peter Biello. Thank you so much for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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