Friends of Kentucky medical marijuana advocate continue push for change after cancer death

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 6:40 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Heading into the 2021 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, activists pushing for medical marijuana were coming off of a record year of legislative progress.

That made them hopeful legalization would finally happen, but, so far, it’s stalled.

Many of the people mourning that momentum this week are also grieving because a man, who they said embodied the need for change, has now passed away.

Adam Clayton, a father-of-two from northern Kentucky, died Thursday after a six year battle with brain cancer.

Clayton visited the capitol numerous times.
Clayton visited the capitol numerous times.(WAVE 3 News)

“When he found out that he had cancer was when we really started connecting,” Chuck Carpenter, a close friend, said.

After that, their friendship would include trips to advocate for change in Frankfort.

To some, the granite walls of the state capitol may seem impenetrable, but, since his diagnosis, Clayton came to know them inside and out.

“The majority of the activists in the state of Kentucky showed up,” Patrick Dunegan, who heads the Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition, said, looking over an old picture of a rally in Frankfort. “There’s Adam, right there.”

As he worked to manage his illness, Clayton became a medical marijuana advocate. In 2018, he said he believed cannabis was working for him.

“I started taking cannabis oil to help with the nausea and pain,” Clayton said. “Miraculously, within a month, my tumor was slightly smaller.”

Over time, he became a familiar face to others behind the same cause.

“He was always smiling, encouraging people to go to their legislators on his behalf,” Dunegan said.

In a 2018 interview, Clayton said he was he was still determined to lobby for change.

“I’m going to continue to fight,” he said. “I just might have to move out of the state.”

Dunegan and his wife, Jennifer, said Clayton would never get a chance to do that because, this week, he was taken into hospice care.

“Mixed emotions,” Jennifer said. “Sadness. Anger that a very good friend of ours is suffering.”

By Thursday, Clayton died.

“He was an awesome guy,” Carpenter said. “He would do anything for anybody. Real nice, great with his kids. Great with his wife.”

Clayton never saw the end result of what he was working on, and believed had helped him, but, left a lasting impact on those he worked with.

“Sad. It makes me feel sad and ashamed of our legislators,” Dunegan said. “How many more of these Kentuckians have to die?”

The Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition, Kentucky NORML and Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana have joined together to create a fundraiser to support Clayton’s family.

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WAVE 3 News Now. Watch Anytime. Anywhere.(WAVE 3 News)

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