Atlanta is Burning, er, Well, Drinking

Drink 'em if you got 'em


A recent Friday afternoon found me wandering the Little 5 Points neighborhood of Atlanta, where I was due to catch Lake Street
Dive at the Variety Playhouse later that day. But long before that, I was on the prowl for pizza and beer, as well as a quick tutorial on the state of cannabis laws in the state of Georgia. I found all three in the “Little 5,” which is kinda like its same-named Northeast Florida area, except bigger, with more money and less violent dysfunctionality, though like any American hipster enclave, the community was fighting against rising rents and city-backed gentrification.

No such locale would be complete without its own pot shop—in this case, it’s actually called The Pot Shop. It opened on Euclid Avenue three years ago, right around the corner from the legendary Criminal Records (one of the best names for a music store ever). Musician and owner Marty Brotzge is one of Atlanta’s leading pro-pot activists, largely through his work with C.A.M.P., aka Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition, founded 1978.

After Governor Nathan Deal allowed for the so-called “Charlotte’s Web” in 2015, Brotzge says, “We thought that would be a good time to open the shop and have a physical presence in the neighborhood, to kind of normalize the whole idea of cannabis coming to town.

“Georgia still has its old, archaic laws, but in a couple of cities, including Atlanta, the city council has voted to ‘decriminalize’ it,” he adds, doing air-quotes to indicate distaste.

After leaving the 5, there was a brief stop to check out the epic Jimmy Carter Center, before a long, looping drive through hellacious rush-hour traffic out to the warehouse district on Ottley Drive, home to Sweetwater Brewing Company, debuting a brand-new hemp-themed product, the “420 Strain: G13 IPA” at 4:20 p.m. on the dot. Friday the 13th was a lucky day for them; they’d sold nearly 200 pints of the stuff within two hours of tapping the kegs, giving the whole facility a Vape Nation kind of smell. That was by design—brewmasters used a mixture of Columbus and Simcoe hops to recreate the characteristic smell of cannabis without doing anything illegal.

Among the party itself, the brewery tours and the wedding rehearsal dinner at the restaurant upstairs, every available inch of the facility’s 200,000 square feet was being put to use. You had DJs, dog photographers, human photographers, ice cream waffles sandwiches from Medzas, and even a tent with intravenous hydration units available. A few folks could be seen putting lips to their fists surreptitiously, but it was a very mature setting overall. Apparently they weren’t even able to sell beer onsite until just last year; before that, they could only sell the tours, which included free beer.

Currently, Sweetwater ships out more than 20 varieties of beer all over the country (the G13 gets bottled in September), but adding the in-house specials probably pushes that number above 100, making it the 15th-largest craft brewer in the nation. A couple of those G13s were a perfect precursor to the concert, where two double Bombay tonics set me back $48. The show was good, and a random sampling of the finery in effect at the outside smoking patio left an indelible impression of the ATL, which is lagging behind the rest of the nation as far as its marijuana laws are concerned, but its culture will likely let it catch up fairly quickly.


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