A Kentucky politician used some strong words during a hearing on medical marijuana legalization this week.
Thursday's hearing of the Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee in Frankfort, Ky., was partially devoted to discussing the benefits of medical marijuana, which is currently illegal in Kentucky but could be implemented in the near future if a bill introduced this week can pass the state legislature.
Powerful testimony was given by Kentucky residents who say marijuana helps them, or their children, cope with debilitating diseases. But things got dramatic when the issue of recreational marijuana was broached.
State Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-Lexington) said he believes the availability of medical marijuana in Kentucky could be "a Trojan horse" for legalizing recreational weed in the state and went on to suggest recreational marijuana could lead to the deaths of children.
"For those of you who want to convince me that there's a medical benefit to cannabis, don't put the word 'recreational use' when you come and talk to me," warned Benvenuti, who is the former inspector general for the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "Because I do not believe in recreational use of marijuana. And I could likewise fill this committee room with first responders, law enforcement officers, and parents of dead children based on the effects of marijuana. Of driving intoxicated and child abuse."
In video of the hearing, the crowd can then be heard protesting Benvenuti's forceful statement.
"We already heard today from folks who talked about intoxicants and its role in child fatalities and child abuse. So we need no more recreational drugs in Kentucky," the former lawyer said, grouping marijuana with opioids, alcohol and tobacco as examples of substances that have ravaged society. "We can't open the floodgates and cause a different kind of suffering that Kentucky has seen over and over again."
Benvenuti did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
Unlike excessive alcohol use, which kills about 88,000 people in the United States per year, no one has ever been killed directly because of marijuana use.