A grow light shines through cannabis leaves at Northern Lights' Denver grow facility in March 2014. (Seth McConnell, Denver Post file)

Dramatic story tables West Virginia plan for tougher pot prison sentences

Lawmaker says he doesn't feel like a 'degenerate criminal' for using chocolate chip pot cookies to help with his chemo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia lawmaker said it was difficult for him, but necessary, to detail his own positive experience with medical marijuana in order to help defeat a bill that would have lengthened prison terms for people bringing drugs into the state.

Republican Delegate Bill Flanigan of Morgantown was visibly frustrated Tuesday as he gave his first speech on the West Virginia House of Delegates floor, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. For marijuana, HB 4576 would have raised the highest prison sentence from five years to 15 years.

Flanigan said medical marijuana provided him essential benefits while he was going through chemotherapy, even though he still feels a lingering guilt that he was using a drug that is illegal in the state.

“Ultimately, I don’t feel like I should feel like a degenerate criminal for using a medicine that gave me so many benefits,” he said.

Flanigan said that when he began undergoing chemotherapy he wasn’t able to eat and the pain pills and anti-nausea medications he had been prescribed weren’t helping him. Then, someone brought him medical marijuana-infused chocolate chip cookies, he told the delegates.

“It was like my eyes had uncrossed,” he said. “The stress lines in my forehead had relaxed. That was the first night I was able to actually eat food.”

After the speech, the bill was tabled by a 59 to 40 vote.

Flanigan said he won’t be running again to be a delegate because he has to focus on his family and his cancer, which he said is now moving through his lymph nodes.

“I’m not going to be here next session, but maybe some of the people who were there that day will be there next session, and they can have a different outlook on it,” he said.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail