Doug Nadin has been clean for over two years.
A recovering drug addict, Nadin, 37, of Dawsonville, said he was blessed to find God and a way out of the lifestyle that consumed him for over 20 years.
“From the first day I smoked pot, I did some kind of drug - pot, pills, LSD, you name it - everyday for the next 20 years,” he said Thursday night, as he stood outside a Dawson County convenience store with over 200 protestors asking store management to take drug paraphernalia off the store’s shelves.
About 250 protesters picketed the Chevron store on Ga. 400, near the intersection of Hwy. 53, calling for store management to quit selling pipes that they claim are used for smoking illegal drugs.
Members of the Dawson County Meth Task Force, along with area high school students and church members, held placards and chanted in front of the store, while store management stood by and watched.
“We love you, but we love our kids more,” said Ricky Stepp, pastor at The Father’s House Christ Fellowship Church, who protested alongside youth from several church groups.
“Quit hurting our kids,” he said. Dawson County High School student Brent Burks was part of the initial group of students that worked with the Meth Task Force to help organize the protest. Burks and his father made a sweep through Dawson County convenience stores in September and discovered the pipes could be purchased at four local stores.
“The kids at school know what the pipes are for,” said Burks, who attended the protest Thursday night.
Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Tony Wooten, a member of the task force, said it was a "peaceful protest" to call attention to what the store sold.
"We’ve wanted to do this for a long time," Wooten said.
The group obtained a demonstration permit from the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and received permission from the Georgia Department of Transportation to protest on a state right-of-way in front of the store.
The group already has convinced four other area stores to quit selling the pipes with a petition and threats of public protests.
Chevron storeowner Rahul Galini said business has not suffered in light of the protest.
“We’re the busiest store in Dawson County. Our business has actually increased,” the Forsyth County resident said.
He also said the store would not give in.
“Our customers are fine with us selling them,” he said, watching the protest from the store parking lot.
Nadin said while the store may be a making a few extra bucks selling the pipes, which are sold legally as tobocca pipes, management needs to realize the lives affected by drug addiction.
“I was blessed to have God in my life to help me through my addiction, but some people don’t have that. If they’re trying to get off the drugs, the last thing they need to see is the temptation when they go in a store to pay for a tank of gas,” he said.
The protest lasted two hours, from 4 to 6 p.m., Thursday. Dawson County sheriff’s officials provided traffic control.
Wooten said the protest was part of the Meth Task Force’s mission to eradicate illegal drug use in the county.
"Getting the paraphernalia out of the stores is a step in the right direction," Wooten said.
DCN Regional Staff Stephen Gurr contributed to the report.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.