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Italy's 'cannabis light' creates buzz even if the pot won't

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Italy's 'cannabis light' creates buzz even if the pot won't
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News

Italy's 'cannabis light' creates buzz even if the pot won't

2019-06-27 16:10 Last Updated At:16:20

It's been called the Italian "green gold rush." Mild, barely there marijuana dubbed "cannabis light" has put Italy on the international weed map, producing hundreds of stores that sell pot by the pouch and attention from investors banking the legalization of stronger stuff will follow.

The flourishing retail industry around cannabis light - weed so non-buzzy, it's essentially the decaf coffee of marijuana - surfaced as an unintended by-product of a law meant to restore Italy as a top producer of industrial hemp. Now, storefronts that peddle chemically ineffective hemp flowers in varieties such as "Chill Haus" and "Black Buddha" are getting blowback that some Italians fear will nip business in the bud.

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In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo cannabis light plants are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

It's been called the Italian "green gold rush." Mild, barely there marijuana dubbed "cannabis light" has put Italy on the international weed map, producing hundreds of stores that sell pot by the pouch and attention from investors banking the legalization of stronger stuff will follow.

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, a shop assistant holds a Kokedama moss ball cannabis light plant at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

"It is neither possible nor acceptable that in Italy there are 1,000 shops where there are drugs legally, in broad daylight. This is disgusting," Matteo Salvini, who made keeping migrants out of Italy his primary focus after taking office a year ago, said.

In this  Thursday, June 6, 2019 a shop assistant opens jars of cannabis buds at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

The commotion reflects the lag in Europe's pro-marijuana movement compared to the recreational use frontiers of North America. The coffee shops in Amsterdam where tourists have gone since the late 1970s to purchase pot in public never took off outside the Netherlands. While more than 30 European countries have laws allowing medical marijuana in some form, patient advocates complain of high prices and inadequate supplies.

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, cannabis buds and products are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

The hemp law that took effect 2 ½ years ago permitted sales of cosmetics and products made with hemp. Gift boutiques, corner markets and stand-alone grow shops soon stocked cannabis-infused pasta, olive oil and gelato, but also jars and bags of "light" buds. Since marijuana still was illegal, producers labeled the products as "collector's items" not intended for consumption.

In this  Thursday, June 6, 2019 cannabis buds under a glass bell are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Even so, cannabis light is a far cry from the legal weed with THC levels of 5% to 35% that adults can buy for recreational use at licensed dispensaries in some parts of the U.S. A Seattle blogger accustomed to the high-octane marijuana in Washington state called Italy's cannabis light "faux weed" after sucking on a fat joint in Rome and feeling nothing. Other reviewers have described a slight relaxing effect.

In this  Thursday, June 6, 2019 open jars of cannabis buds are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

The next day, police performed a "precautionary seizure" of Green Planet and two other stores in Caserta to test if the cannabis light they were selling was a legal non-high or carried illegal high-giving capacity. Local magistrates let Green Planet reopen after two weeks, which included the several its owner spent outside chained to the gated door in protest. Results must come back from THC tests on his confiscated products before he can sell cannabis light again.

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, a shop assistant, left, shows products to a customer at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Legislative attempts to take the light out of Italian cannabis so far have stalled on strong objections from the right. One of the two populist parties running the government now - the 5-Star Movement - enraged its coalition partner - the League party led by cannabis light critic Salvini - with such an attempt last year. Claudio Miglio, a lawyer who specializes in drug-related cases, is optimistic the cannabis light market will be allowed to keep growing in the meantime.

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo shows a cannabis light store in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo shows a cannabis light store in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo a man walks by the entrance of a cannabis light store, in which writing reads "Legal" on the shop window, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, June 6, 2019. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo a man walks by the entrance of a cannabis light store, in which writing reads "Legal" on the shop window, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, June 6, 2019. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, biscuits and other products are displayed at a Cannabis light store, in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, biscuits and other products are displayed at a Cannabis light store, in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

Italy's highest court clouded the climate four weeks ago by ruling it was illegal to market hemp-derived products that weren't "in practice devoid" of the power to provide a perceptible high. Sporadic testing and customer reviews suggested cannabis light outlets sold weed that weak. The law-and-order interior minister nonetheless declared war on the shops with neon leaf logos last month, vowing to close them "street by street, shop by shop" nationwide.

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo cannabis light plants are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo cannabis light plants are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

"It is neither possible nor acceptable that in Italy there are 1,000 shops where there are drugs legally, in broad daylight. This is disgusting," Matteo Salvini, who made keeping migrants out of Italy his primary focus after taking office a year ago, said.

Some business owners are ready to fight back. The owner of Green Planet in the southern city of Caserta chained himself to the fence around his locked shop this month after a raid in which police seized 16 grams of cannabis light. Gioel Magini, the owner of a Cannabis Amsterdam Store franchise in Sanremo, proposed a class-action lawsuit to keep the shops open and their owners from losing money.

"I closed a pizzeria to open this store. Now, they want us to go bankrupt," Magini told Italian news agency ANSA. "It's as if to fight alcoholism, the sale of non-alcoholic beer is banned."

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, a shop assistant holds a Kokedama moss ball cannabis light plant at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, a shop assistant holds a Kokedama moss ball cannabis light plant at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

The commotion reflects the lag in Europe's pro-marijuana movement compared to the recreational use frontiers of North America. The coffee shops in Amsterdam where tourists have gone since the late 1970s to purchase pot in public never took off outside the Netherlands. While more than 30 European countries have laws allowing medical marijuana in some form, patient advocates complain of high prices and inadequate supplies.

Enter "la cannabis light," the catchy name Italians have for cannabis sativa plant derivatives with low levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that causes a high. Hemp and marijuana are the same plant, but scientists classify dry plants with no more than 0.3% THC as hemp. In the 28-country European Union, of which Italy is a member, the cutoff is 0.2%. A December 2016 Italian law, however, set a domestic ceiling three times higher than that to give hemp farmers leeway for natural variations resulting from cultivation, according to Stefano Masini, a spokesman for Italy's Coldiretti agriculture lobby.

Although 0.6% is just over the THC concentration required for hemp to become marijuana in a botanist's book, Italian regulators assumed it was too low to have a mind-altering effect and its related consumer appeal. Entrepreneurs in a country with a lackluster economy nonetheless saw an opportunity.

In this  Thursday, June 6, 2019 a shop assistant opens jars of cannabis buds at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 a shop assistant opens jars of cannabis buds at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

The hemp law that took effect 2 ½ years ago permitted sales of cosmetics and products made with hemp. Gift boutiques, corner markets and stand-alone grow shops soon stocked cannabis-infused pasta, olive oil and gelato, but also jars and bags of "light" buds. Since marijuana still was illegal, producers labeled the products as "collector's items" not intended for consumption.

Rolling papers and glass pipes storekeepers might display nearby advertised otherwise.

"To say it is for collectors doesn't mean a thing," Coldiretti's Masini said. "If you can sell something that can be eaten or inhaled, obviously the use is something different."

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, cannabis buds and products are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, cannabis buds and products are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Even so, cannabis light is a far cry from the legal weed with THC levels of 5% to 35% that adults can buy for recreational use at licensed dispensaries in some parts of the U.S. A Seattle blogger accustomed to the high-octane marijuana in Washington state called Italy's cannabis light "faux weed" after sucking on a fat joint in Rome and feeling nothing. Other reviewers have described a slight relaxing effect.

THC content - or more precisely, how much it takes to get stoned - was considered by Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation in the May 30 decision that alarmed the cannabis light industry. The case involved two light cannabis shops in central Italy that police shut down on suspicion of drug trafficking. An investigating judge threw out charges against the owner. Similar cases had resulted in conflicting verdicts on whether the shops could operate legally.

The Supreme Court's preliminary ruling summed up the contradictions of cannabis light in half a page. The court said the 2016 hemp law and its upper THC limit did not apply to cannabis leaves, buds or other spin-offs from hemp plants. Selling them remained illegal in Italy "unless such products are in practice devoid of a doping effect."

In this  Thursday, June 6, 2019 cannabis buds under a glass bell are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 cannabis buds under a glass bell are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

The next day, police performed a "precautionary seizure" of Green Planet and two other stores in Caserta to test if the cannabis light they were selling was a legal non-high or carried illegal high-giving capacity. Local magistrates let Green Planet reopen after two weeks, which included the several its owner spent outside chained to the gated door in protest. Results must come back from THC tests on his confiscated products before he can sell cannabis light again.

Police raids in other cities have cannabis producers and sellers worried. They are anxiously waiting to see if the Supreme Court's full opinion, due by July 30, clarifies if they have a green light to keep mining the gold rush until the novelty of cannabis light wears off or more liberal laws clear the way for heavier marijuana on store shelves.

In other parts of Europe, changing attitudes on marijuana planted across the Atlantic might find fertile ground.. The government that took over in Luxembourg in November was the first in Europe to legalize recreational marijuana. Switzerland, which is not an EU member, allows cannabis light with up to 1% THC to be sold like tobacco. In Spain, cannabis social clubs are sprouting up since drug laws prohibiting marijuana possession are rarely enforced against casual users.

In this  Thursday, June 6, 2019 open jars of cannabis buds are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 open jars of cannabis buds are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Legislative attempts to take the light out of Italian cannabis so far have stalled on strong objections from the right. One of the two populist parties running the government now - the 5-Star Movement - enraged its coalition partner - the League party led by cannabis light critic Salvini - with such an attempt last year. Claudio Miglio, a lawyer who specializes in drug-related cases, is optimistic the cannabis light market will be allowed to keep growing in the meantime.

"The hope is that the market, which is the strongest power of all, will finally stimulate the public opinion on marijuana as it's happening for light cannabis now," Miglio said.

Lisa Leff contributed from London.

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, a shop assistant, left, shows products to a customer at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, a shop assistant, left, shows products to a customer at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo shows a cannabis light store in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo shows a cannabis light store in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo a man walks by the entrance of a cannabis light store, in which writing reads "Legal" on the shop window, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, June 6, 2019. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo a man walks by the entrance of a cannabis light store, in which writing reads "Legal" on the shop window, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, June 6, 2019. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, biscuits and other products are displayed at a Cannabis light store, in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years.  But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, biscuits and other products are displayed at a Cannabis light store, in Rome. It’s been called Italy’s ‘’Green Gold Rush,’’ a flourishing business around light marijuana that has created 15,000 jobs and an estimated 150 million euros worth of annual revenues in under three years. But the budding sector is facing a political and judicial buzzkill. (AP PhotoAndrew Medichini)

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia state Supreme Court incumbent has won an election that was unusually heated by the standards of the state's nonpartisan judicial elections, while voters in the state also advanced a former Donald Trump aide and a former state Senate majority leader to a GOP runoff for an open seat in the strongly Republican 3rd Congressional District.

Two Democratic congressional incumbents — U.S. Reps. David Scott and Lucy McBath — defeated primary challengers in metro Atlanta districts that were redrawn by Republicans after redistricting lawsuits.

Parties were also choosing their nominees for other congressional and state legislative seats and local offices including sheriffs, district attorneys and county commissioners.

Runoffs will be held June 18 in races where candidates didn't win a majority.

Here's a look at key races:

Georgia state Supreme Court Justice Andrew Pinson defeated a challenge from former U.S. Rep. John Barrow in the general election for judicial candidates, who run without party labels.

The 37-year-old Pinson won a six-year term after Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to the nine-member court in 2022. The 69-year-old Barrow made support for abortion rights central to his campaign. Pinson said discussing issues would weaken confidence that he could judge fairly, and he warned of making judicial campaigns too political.

“Tonight the voters of Georgia voiced their desire for a fair and impartial judiciary,” Pinson said in a statement.

Kemp and other conservatives intervened to aid Pinson in a race that grew heated by the usually sleepy standards of Georgia’s judicial elections. Barrow unsuccessfully sued in federal court, saying a state judicial agency was violating his free-speech rights. The agency warned Barrow his claim that Georgians have a right to abortion under the state constitution might be violating judicial ethics. Barrow, in a statement after his loss, said he remains committed to his view that the Georgia Constitution protects abortion rights.

“The people who have spoken up on the issue of abortion rights agree with me, and so the issue remains to be decided, first by the Supreme Court and ultimately by the people,” Barrow said in a statement.

Justices Michael Boggs, John Ellington and Nels Peterson were unopposed. Six judges on the Georgia Court of Appeals are also unopposed, while Jeff Davis beat Tabitha Ponder for an open seat on the court.

Former Donald Trump aide Brian Jack and Mike Dugan, the former Georgia state Senate majority leader, advanced to a runoff for the GOP nomination in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District south and west of Atlanta.

Jack also worked for former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He parlayed Trump’s endorsement and his Washington contacts into a fundraising lead in his first run for office. On the stump, Jack emphasized his close ties to Trump at every opportunity.

“We're excited to share our message and grow our campaign even more over the next few weeks,” Jack said in a statement.

Dugan emphasized Republican legislative achievements when he was in the post, including cutting taxes, imposing sharp restrictions on abortion, shortening the period to request an absentee ballot and limiting ballot drop boxes.

“Mike is all in,” said spokesperson Jen Talaber Ryan. “His proven track record and deep roots in the community make him the best voice and strongest choice for west Georgians.”

The seat is open because Republican U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson is stepping down after four terms. The Republican nominee will be the favorite in a strongly GOP district south and west of Atlanta in November, facing the winner of the Democratic primary, Maura Keller.

Scott beat six Democratic primary opponents to advance to the general election as he seeks a 12th congressional term in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District that was significantly reconfigured in a new map.

Challengers attacked the 78-year-old Scott as too old and out of touch, but those claims never gained traction with voters. Scott said in March that he’s seeking another term to enhance funding for historically Black colleges such as Fort Valley State University, and to provide more assistance to struggling homeowners.

Among Scott’s primary opponents were Marcus Flowers, who raised $17 million to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in another district in 2022, and former East Point City Councilmember Karen René. Scott will face the winner of the Republican primary, Jonathan Chavez, in November.

McBath beat two Democratic primary opponents to clinch the nomination in her second new district in two years.

She overcame Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson and state Rep. Mandisha Thomas, who both claimed they could better represent the new 6th District. Republican lawmakers drew the district, which wraps around the west side of metro Atlanta, after a court ordered new maps to remedy discrimination against Black voters.

Republican Jeff Criswell will oppose her in November.

McBath was first elected in 2018 in a district that covered Atlanta’s inner northern suburbs. After a new map in 2022 added more Republicans to that district, McBath jumped to a district that included parts of Gwinnett and Fulton counties. There, she defeated fellow Democratic incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux in a primary.

McBath, whose son was shot to death, has made gun control and reducing gun violence her primary focus. She also says she wants to work on reducing health care disparities in another term.

“Twice, extremist Georgia Republicans tried to bend the rules and draw me out of Congress,” McBath said in a statement. “Twice, Georgians have stood with me and resoundingly voted to send me back to Congress.”

Two years ago, Republicans had hoped they had a chance to defeat 16-term Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop Jr. in southwest Georgia's 2nd District. But Bishop won that election easily. Now two more Republicans will go to a runoff hoping to take a shot a Bishop, who was unopposed on the Democratic ballot.

Advancing to the runoff are Wayne Johnson, of Macon, and Chuck Hand, of Butler. Johnson was an official in the U.S. Education Department under Trump and finished third in the Republican primary two years ago, Hand is a Taylor County Republican Party official and construction superintendent who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for illegally demonstrating in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He was sentenced to 20 days in federal prison and six months of probation.

Johnson and Hand beat Michael Nixon, of Thomasville, a hospital purchasing director and Air Force veteran, and Regina “Reggie” Liparoto, of Columbus, a longtime conservative activist.

Two Democrats in northwest Georgia's 14th District will compete in a runoff for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has no GOP opposition.

Advancing to the runoff are consultant Clarence Blalock, of Hiram, and retired Army general Shawn Harris, of Cedartown. They beat sales manager Deric Houston, of Dallas, and business manager Joseph Leigh, of Rossville. Harris has by far raised the most money of the four.

For most candidates, their top issue is their distaste for Greene, a top ally of Trump who recently failed in an effort to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson. The winner will have an uphill fight in a heavily Republican district. Two years ago, Democrat Marcus Flowers raised more than $16 million in his challenge to Greene but still lost badly.

Republican U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, the only other incumbent facing a primary challenge, beat retired banker and longtime Republican activist Lori Marie Pesta and retired airline pilot Mike Pons in the 11th Congressional District northwest of Atlanta. Kate Stamper won the Democratic nomination against Antonio Daza.

Democrats chose Darrius Butler to challenge Republican incumbent Austin Scott in south and middle Georgia's 8th District. In northeast Georgia's 10th District, they chose Lexy Doherty to challenge incumbent Mike Collins. And Democrat Elizabeth Johnson will face incumbent Republican Rick Allen for a third time in the 12th District around Augusta.

FILE - Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott speaks to reporters, March 4, 2024, at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, after qualifying to run for reelection to Congress in suburban Atlanta's 13th Congressional District. Scott beat six Democratic primary opponents in Georgia's elections on Tuesday, May 21, as he seeks a 12th congressional term. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

FILE - Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott speaks to reporters, March 4, 2024, at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, after qualifying to run for reelection to Congress in suburban Atlanta's 13th Congressional District. Scott beat six Democratic primary opponents in Georgia's elections on Tuesday, May 21, as he seeks a 12th congressional term. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

FILE - Rep. Lucy McBath D-GA poses for photographers as she arrives at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington, Saturday, April 27, 2024. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath has beaten two Democratic primary opponents to clinch the nomination in her second new district in two years. McBath has overcome Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson and state Rep. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, file)

FILE - Rep. Lucy McBath D-GA poses for photographers as she arrives at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington, Saturday, April 27, 2024. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath has beaten two Democratic primary opponents to clinch the nomination in her second new district in two years. McBath has overcome Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson and state Rep. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, file)

FILE - Republican Jim Bennett listens at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on, April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Bennett and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE - Republican Jim Bennett listens at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on, April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Bennett and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE- Republican Philip Singleton listens at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Singleton and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE- Republican Philip Singleton listens at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Singleton and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE – Republican Mike Dugan speaks at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Dugan and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE – Republican Mike Dugan speaks at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Dugan and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE – Republican Mike Crane listens at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Crane and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE – Republican Mike Crane listens at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Crane and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE - Republican Brian Jack speaks at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Jack and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE - Republican Brian Jack speaks at the 3rd Congressional District debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club on April 28, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are choosing between Jack and four other Republicans in a primary to decide the GOP nominee on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jason Allen, File)

FILE – John Barrow speaks to a Democratic group in Hoschton, Ga., on April 15, 2024, seeking support in his race for the Georgia Supreme Court. Voters are deciding the race between the Democratic former congressman and incumbent Justice Andrew Pinson in a nonpartisan general election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

FILE – John Barrow speaks to a Democratic group in Hoschton, Ga., on April 15, 2024, seeking support in his race for the Georgia Supreme Court. Voters are deciding the race between the Democratic former congressman and incumbent Justice Andrew Pinson in a nonpartisan general election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

FILE - Supreme Court Justice Andrew Pinson poses, April 17, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are deciding the race between Pinson and Democratic former congressman John Barrow in a nonpartisan general election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

FILE - Supreme Court Justice Andrew Pinson poses, April 17, 2024, in Atlanta. Voters are deciding the race between Pinson and Democratic former congressman John Barrow in a nonpartisan general election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Voters depart an election center during primary voting, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Kennesaw, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Voters depart an election center during primary voting, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Kennesaw, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

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