Democrat Shawn Fluharty, 3rd District candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates, believes the state should move toward legalizing marijuana.
The benefits of decriminalizing marijuana - both for medical and recreational purposes - are "multi-faceted," he said. Fluharty cited information from the state of Colorado, where officials project nearly $100 million in annual tax collections from its legalization of marijuana.
"West Virginia has the highest cancer rate in the nation," Fluharty said. "It would help many people if we decriminalize medical marijuana. We have have to put West Virginians first.
"We have the ability to derive revenue from it. We have a template from other states. Why are we not doing it? It just makes economic sense."
Fluharty added he also would support decriminalizing the use of recreational marijuana in West Virginia.
"We would spend less money locking people up because of marijuana," he said.
Fluharty, 30, is a Wheeling attorney and graduate of the West Virginia University School of Law. He also holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from WVU, and was an intern at the Legislature while a student.
Fluharty ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2010 and 2012, but he said he won't let those experiences deter him from his goal of being a legislator.
"I went to law school after interning with the Legislature to obtain the skill set I would need to be a legislator, and to serve the state," he said. "I fired up some people last time. I'm not your typical politician. I'm not here to make friends - I am here to make a difference. Most people want to please everyone, and I know I'm not going to please everyone."
Fluharty said he is passionate about the idea of public service.
"It is something I feel I will excel at, and I was not raised to give up just because something is hard."
The 3rd District includes most of Ohio County. District voters will elect two from among seven candidates, including four Republicans and three Democrats. The top two vote-getters from each party in the May primary will advance to the November general election.