Cancer patients encourage medical marijuana in West Virginia

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – The wheels of change are turning in the Mountain State. Not everyone is in agreement about medical marijuana, but treatment will soon be legal. For one cancer patient going through chemotherapy, his desperate search for relief turned him to use medicinal marijuana.

“A very dear loved one, brought me chocolate chip cookies and I started using those because they had THC in them,” said Bill Flanigan. His admission was a controversial one. Not only was medical marijuana use still illegal in West Virginia, but Flanigan was a Republican Delegate for Monongalia County. It was 2016 when he addressed the House. Flanigan continued on with a shaky voice. “I’ve still got the ridges on my fingers nails. When I came here, I hadn’t had my hair grow back yet.” His fellow lawmakers listened on. 

In a phone interview, Flanigan explained why he ran for office, and why he ultimately left his home state. “I joined the legislation for the purpose of trying to make our state a good place for my children. I now live in Florida and one of the reasons my wife and I chose Florida to move was because it had a medical cannabis act in place, so I no longer had to feel like a criminal to get the medicine I needed to feel better.” 

Many credit the former Republican Delegate from Monongalia County, as the catalyst for getting medical marijuana legal in West Virginia after his speech on the House floor. “Cannabis allowed me to just from an immediate dose, that buzzing feeling that pain, basically subsided. It was there, you knew it was there but it really didn’t affect me at that time.” 

While Flanigan credits medicinal marijuana with helping him cope with chemo, not everyone is quick to jump on board. 

“We don’t have enough evidence to say this is safe, nor should it be used for particular conditions,” said James Berry, with WVU Medicine. “There’s a lot of research that still needs to be done. An I’m in favor of doing much more research.” 

The Mountain State is set to begin selling medicinal marijuana, but we’re still years away from the industry being up and running. Leaving some fearing the progress may be too little too late. “People who are suffering from cancer and going through chemotherapy, people who suffer from seizures, people have MS or ALS, were moving too slowly for them,” Said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha.
The medical marijuana vertical integration bill passed the House and Senate Monday, allowing for growers to be distributors as well as processors.

Until then, Flanigan shares his frustration with the slow process. When asked what he tells others looking for advice, he says relocate. “In West Virginia, it’s still currently illegal, move to a state where you can legally acquire the medicine you’re looking for.”   

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