ATLANTA -- Candy that's flavored like marijuana would be outlawed under a bill proposed in the state Senate.
The effort, spearheaded by Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, is one of several throughout the nation targeting increasingly popular candies marketed with drug-inspired names like Purple Haze and advertised with slogans such as, "Every Lick is Like Taking a Hit."
Marketers call the treats a harmless novelty. But anti-drug advocates say they glorify drug use and encourage children to smoke pot.
"Should a 9 year old be able to go into a store and get a bag of chips, a soda pop and some dope candy?" said Fort, who announced his bill Thursday in the parking lot of an Atlanta convenience store where he said he bought the candy the day before. "That's ridiculous."
Fort's bill, which was co-signed by several other Democrats and at least one Republican in Georgia's GOP-controlled Senate, bans the sale of any "marijuana or hemp flavored candy" in the state and calls for a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for the second offense.
Companies who sell the candies say the lollipops, gum drops and other treats are geared toward adults and that they advise retailers to sell the candy only to people 18 and older.
They say the candies are flavored with legal hemp oil, which gives them the oily, grassy taste of marijuana.
"It has the flavor and essence, without any of the pharmacological ingredients," Tony Sosa, whose Atlanta-based Hydro Blunts company sells the candies, said in June.
Sosa was unable to be reached by telephone on Thursday.
Some hemp advocates disagree with Sosa, claiming the candy is made with oil from the cannabis plant's flowers that may be illegal.
The web site for Corona, Calif.-based Chronic Candy acknowledges using "hemp essential oil" in its products, but maintains that the oil is legal.
Tom Durkin, a Chicago attorney who represents Chronic Candy, was unable to be reached Thursday for comment.
Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nor the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has reported testing the candies.
Critics say that, regardless of its content, the candy makes using drugs seem more attractive to children who may not have tried marijuana themselves. The Chronic Candy web site features photographs of celebrities, from rapper Snoop Dogg to actor Verne Troyer, eating the candy or wearing clothing advertising the company.
"They not only sell the candy," said community activist and former Atlanta Councilman Derrick Boazman. "They sell a drug-induced lifestyle."
Fort and Boazman were joined in the convenience store parking lot by about a half-dozen people holding signs that read "Stop Chronic Candy." The name is a reference to street slang for marijuana.
An employee inside the store, who did not give his name, said the shop stopped selling the lollipops in the past few days.
Chicago's city council and Suffolk County, N.Y., are among the local governments that already have banned the candies. Lawmakers in several states, including Texas, Michigan, New Jersey and New York, are considering banning or controlling their sale.
Fort said the committee considering his bill is scheduled to hold a public hearing on it next week.