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Pro-Medical-Marijuana Lawmaker Has Given Up Politics, But Not Cannabis

Bill Flanigan has given up running for office and has become a hemp farmer. (Bill Flanigan/Youtube/Morgantown Chamber of Commerce)
Bill Flanigan has given up running for office and has become a hemp farmer. (Bill Flanigan/Youtube/Morgantown Chamber of Commerce)
August 20, 2018

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — A former West Virginia lawmaker who spoke movingly about being helped by medical marijuana now says he has given up on politics, but not cannabis.

In 2016, Bill Flanigan was a member of the House of Delegates, newly appointed to an open seat in Morgantown. His first speech described how medical marijuana helped him get through chemotherapy for stage three cancer. He also helped kill a bill that would have increased mandatory-minimum drug sentences.

Today, Flanigan grows hemp in Preston County. He said he feels alienated from politics and from both major parties; but he's devoted to medical marijuana.

"I don't know what else I can do in my life anymore,” Flanigan said. “But this is going to be the one thing I'm trying to do for the rest of it is help people that need it, and provide them with the things that our government keeps telling them that they can have for a really, really terrible reason."

West Virginia lawmakers approved the idea of medical cannabis. But making it available here has been stalled by federal opposition from the Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart has said any bank that takes medical marijuana money could be charged with money laundering. Stuart described marijuana as a dangerous drug that should remain illegal.

Flanigan said he was still getting over the aftereffects of chemotherapy during that legislative session. It was miserable to go through, he said. He was in constant pain, and his entire body prickled as nerves were dying off and being regrown.

"I literally was within a week and a half saying, 'Forget it, I'm not going to mess with any more of this stuff,' when a friend of mine had sent me chocolate chip cookies basically that had cannabis in them,” he said. “It was like a life changer."

He said medical marijuana allowed him to sit down and eat with his family again.

Flanigan said he found the state legislative climate, in his words, "slimy." He described being offered $20,000 in campaign contributions to vote in favor of a Right-to-Work bill, and said he turned the money down. That legislation eventually passed without him.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV