The Kentucky Baptist Convention is taking credit for the failure of medical marijuana bills in this year’s General Assembly and is already gearing up to fight similar legislation next year.
Ed Shemelya is the coordinator for the National Marijuana Initiative, an anti-marijuana organization. He says he reached out to the KBC and its executive director, Paul Chitwood, last summer, wanting its members to “get off their pews” and work against medical marijuana legislation following the passage of bills related to hemp and cannabidiol oil.
“We know that it doesn’t stop with those two,” Shemelya said. “The ultimate end game for proponents of – and I don’t even like to call it medical marijuana – the proponents of marijuana as medicine is not to sanction marijuana as medicine but the outright legalization of recreational use of marijuana.”
Senate Bill 40 was introduced in January and would have established a comprehensive system for medical marijuana in the commonwealth. It died in committee. Its sponsors, Perry Clark and Reginald Thomas, could not be reached Thursday for comment. House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s version of the bill had a similar fate. It would have made marijuana available in non-smokeable forms to patients diagnosed by a doctor.
According to the KBC, almost half of the Kentucky Senate and a third of the House identify as Baptists. Chitwood says he and his group will not support medical marijuana as long its derivatives are not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
“We’ll continue to stand with the FDA and stand on an issue that we think presents a lot of risk for Kentucky," Chitwood said. "There are about 7,500 kids right now in the care of the state of Kentucky. The majority of them have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect as a direct result of the drug abuse of their parents. And almost all of those parents who went down the road of drug abuse started with marijuana."
Bluegrass Polls in 2013 and 2014 showed a majority of Kentuckians supported legalizing marijuana.