Georgia Today: Actors strike ends; Young Thug lyrics can be used in trial; Medical cannabis industry
LISTEN: On the Thursday, Nov. 9 edition of Georgia Today: With the actors' strike now over, how long will it be until Georgia productions are back up and running? A Fulton County judge rules that musicians can be held criminally liable for their lyrics; and the medical cannabis industry struggles to expand.
Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, Nov. 9. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode: With the actors strike now over, how long will it be until Georgia productions are back up and running? A Fulton County judge rules that musicians can be held criminally liable for their lyrics, and the medical cannabis industry struggles to expand. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Peter Biello: Fulton Elections officials are preparing after federal officials warned that a letter possibly containing fentanyl is in transit to the elections office. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.
Sarah Kallis: Federal officials detected the letter addressed to the Fulton Elections Office during an investigation into four others sent to election to offices in Washington state. Two of those letters tested positive for fentanyl. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who lost his son to a fentanyl overdose five years ago, called it poison. He said Fulton elections officials are now armed with Narcan in case a letter makes its way to their office. But he is hopeful the U.S. Postal Service will intercept it. Raffensperger called upon officials to speak out.
Brad Raffensperger: This is domestic terrorism and it needs to be condemned by anyone that holds elected office and anyone that wants to hold elected office anywhere in America.
Sarah Kallis: Officials have not determined a motive for the letter, but believe it is connected to those in Washington. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis in Atlanta.
Peter Biello: Georgia's film industry is expecting a flood of productions as both of Hollywood's strikes are now over. The actors' union SAG-AFTRA ended their strike today. Writers ended their strike in September. Walker Dalton of the Savannah Film Commission says a lot of people are excited to get back to work, but that might not happen right away.
Walker Dalton: Typically, the holidays are like a slow time for the industry, and it's a perfect time that this comes in because it allows a warmup time to happen as the first year comes around. Contracts will be in place and work can start.
Peter Biello: Dalton says film productions generated $230 million in Savannah last year and state industry revenues were $4 billion.
Peter Biello: Prosecutors will be allowed to use rap lyrics as evidence when an Atlanta rapper goes to trial later this month on gang and racketeering charges. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Earl Glanville said today that he would allow the lyrics to show they're related to crimes the rapper Young Thug is accused of committing. Defense attorneys had asked the judge to exclude the lyrics, arguing they're constitutionally protected speech and would be unfairly prejudicial. Opening statements are scheduled for Nov. 27 in the trial against Young Thug and five others.
Peter Biello: The Georgia Department of Labor is launching a new job training program aimed at helping people released from prison find jobs immediately after completing their sentences. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.
Benjamin Payne: During the last three months of their incarceration, participants will have access to training, résumé building, mock interviews and actual job interviews under the name Walking the Last Mile. The program will roll out next month at Metro Reentry State Prison in Atlanta. Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson says he plans to expand it across the state, including Savannah, where he made the announcement.
Bruce Thompson: We're going to walk with them while they're in and we're going to walk with them when they're out. And you will see that the plans of this initiative are to make sure they're gainfully employed before they ever leave the gates of being incarcerated.
Benjamin Payne: Thompson says hundreds of employers have already signed up and that most of the jobs will be beyond entry-level positions. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.
Peter Biello: A state tax credit review panel has turned its focus to housing. You may have heard us talk about this panel before it, the Joint Tax Credit review panel. It's the one examining whether the state's film tax credits are getting enough bang for the buck. Builders, financial experts and housing nonprofit executives testified this week before the panel. They say the state's tax credits for low-income housing are essential to the state's well-being. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs used the state's low-income housing tax credit to help finance 32,000 affordable housing units between 2019 and 2022. That's according to Philip Gillman, the agency's deputy director for housing and development. Historic preservation advocates say offering tax credits to help rehab historic properties could lift property values for an entire community. The panel is due to recommend any changes to the state's tax incentives in time for the start of the legislative session in January.
Peter Biello: Georgia is one of 38 states that allow the medical use of cannabis products. Just last month, Georgia became the first state to allow eligible patients to buy medical cannabis products at pharmacies. It's all aimed at easing access to products with just enough of the main chemical in cannabis, THC, to improve quality of life. But as GPB's Eliza Moore explains, obstacles are still baked into the process.
Troy Davis: Well, welcome in. I just need your driver's license and your low-THC oil card.
Eliza Moore: That's Troy Davis's greeting when you walk into Trulieve Macon, one of seven medical cannabis dispensaries in Georgia.
Troy Davis: Initially, to get you in the red registered in the system, it would be about 5 minutes. But other than that, you just have to give us your low-THC card on your second visit after that and it'll be we'll check you in from there.
Eliza Moore: He makes getting cannabis-derived medicine sound easy. But 60-year-old Sylvia Hayes of Stone Mountain says it's anything but simple.
Sylvia Hayes: A lot of people don't know how to go about getting it because it's so "Ooo, hush-hush, don't say nothing, shh, be quiet."
Eliza Moore: Hayes lives with intense chronic pain, one of the conditions that qualifies a Georgia resident for a low-THC card. Hayes says just getting the card was difficult.
Sylvia Hayes: Because none of my doctors knew anything about it or knew what to do, and only this doctor can do it. And only that doctor can do it. And you're not a patient of that doctor. Then you try — when you try to implement, it is like pulling teeth from Jehovah.
Eliza Moore: So the first step is to find a doctor to certify you have one of 18 qualifying conditions, like some types of epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. But Dr. Trista Marshall with Trulieve says it can't just be any doctor.
Trista Marshall: A physician needs to complete the application process to become approved by the state. So a person can't just assume that their physician is. They would need to specifically ask them.
Eliza Moore: The Georgia Department of Public Health doesn't currently know how many doctors are certified and will not disclose their locations. But dispensaries like Trulieve keep lists of doctors. If one of them says you need a cannabis card, that's an extra $100 on top of the $25 state fee. None of this, including the prescribed product, is covered by insurance. And as Sylvia Hayes says, none of it is common knowledge.
Sylvia Hayes: Nobody's educating people. Nobody.
Eliza Moore: But education is former NFL and UGA cornerback Champ Bailey's job. He says another obstacle to access is convincing people using cannabis, even legal cannabis, is an acceptable thing to do.
Champ Bailey: You know, I grew up in South Georgia, so I grew up thinking, you know, marijuana was a gateway drug and marijuana is going to lead to this and lead to that.
Eliza Moore: As Trulieve's chief diversity officer, Bailey's job is to change people's minds.
Champ Bailey: Every day, just constantly telling people that it's available, it's legal.
Eliza Moore: And for sale, and not just from dispensaries, now that many pharmacies are approved to sell it, as long as you have a state-issued card. According to Georgia, only 14,000 low-THC cards have been issued in the state so far. For GPB News, I'm Eliza Moore in Macon.
Peter Biello: Friends of members of the homeless community in Macon who died in the last year remembered them at a memorial this week. GPB's Grant Blankenship has more.
Grant Blankenship: The ceremony was held at the Daybreak Resource Center, which provides food, medical care, laundry and other services to the unhoused. Sister Theresa Sullivan leads Daybreak. She says the annual service is about remembering the dead, but also reassuring the living.
Sister Theresa Sullivan: Because one of the fears when you pass away and you've been on the streets sometimes is, will anybody even notice?
Grant Blankenship: She says this should remind those left behind they matter. Sullivan says some of those remembered this year died of natural causes, but for some...
Sister Theresa Sullivan: So a lot of them could have been prevented. Some are overdoses, some are alcohol. You know, it's never one thing. Usually it's a combination of things.
Grant Blankenship: Freddie Evans is one of a number killed after being hit by a car. Daybreak volunteer Bennie Sanchez knew him.
Bennie Sanchez: He was a quiet individual, quiet, quiet fellow. He kept himself. He was crossing the road somewhere and a car hit him and left him there. Didn't tell anyone or nothing, just left them there.
Grant Blankenship: Sanchez wonders if Evans' death could have been prevented if the woman who hit him had called for help instead of fleeing. Sister Theresa Sullivan hopes more death can be prevented when Daybreak soon opens its block of medical recovery apartments for people who for now, are often discharged from the hospital right back to the street. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.
Peter Biello: A mutual fund known for environment-related activism is urging two large corporations to consider the risks of mining near Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp. Green Century Capital Management has filed shareholder petitions with chemical producer Chemours and paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams. They oppose a plan by the Alabama company Twin Pines to mine for titanium dioxide on the swamps edge. Neither company has announced plans to obtain the mineral from Twin Pines. Twin Pines Officials have said the proposed mine would not harm the Okefenokee.
Peter Biello: Columbus-based Synovus Bank is giving $1 million to a public/private partnership that supports the revitalization of downtown Macon. NewTown Macon said today the bank's investment will support local entrepreneurs with a focus on those historically underserved. The Synovus commitment comes three months after Texas-based Cadence Bank announced a $9 million investment in NewTown.
Peter Biello: In sports, the Los Angeles Angels have hired Braves third base coach Ron Washington as their new manager. He spent the past seven seasons with the Braves, helping them win their 2021 World Series title. The 71-year-old Washington became the majors' oldest current manager and only the second active Black manager, joining Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington led the Texas Rangers from 27 to 2014, winning two American League pennants. And in basketball, the Atlanta Hawks face the Magic in Orlando tonight. The Hawks lost to the Oklahoma Thunder on Monday.
Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit our website, GPB.org/news. And don't forget to subscribe to this podcast that'll keep us current in your podcast feed. If you've got feedback or a story idea, of course, we would love to hear from you. Send us an email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. We're taking the Veteran's Day holiday off tomorrow, so we'll see you on Monday.
For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news