West Virginia legislator Pat McGeehan looking sick on his office couch–sickness some media attributed to raw milk, and others attributed to a stomach bug circulating among legislators.

Days after West Virginia became one of the most anti-raw-milk states to reverse itself and allow herdshares, news reports began appearing that legislators who had helped pass the legislation were sick from drinking raw milk.

In a television news scene that looks as if it was choreographed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a West Virginia legislator, Pat McGeehan, lies on his office couch, eyes closed with his hand on his head, bemoaning his stomach bug.

Except if you listen to what McGeehan says, he doesn’t blame the “small sip” of raw milk he took.

Nor, if you read other articles that have appeared, do additional legislators. The articles suggest that legislators who didn’t drink the raw milk given out last Thursday to celebrate the passing of the herdshare legislation have also been getting sick from a stomach bug going around among the legislators. Says one report: “Some lawmakers were sick before Thursday and did not drink the milk, including House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha County, House spokesman Jared Hunt noted.”

I wouldn’t have even bothered to write about this flimsy report, except that the timing is curious. Consider these related developments:

  • Legislation allowing herdshares is pending yet again in Maryland, and this time, after any number of previous tries, it looks as if it has a shot at enactment. Not only are many legislators in favor of it, but the Maryland Department of Health is, for the first time, not opposing the legislation. Maryland, of course, is in the FDA’s back yard, yet it is inching ever closer to allowing availability.  The one remaining obstacle appears to be the chairman of the legislative committee who has long blocked herdshare legislation from coming to a committee vote, Peter Hammen. He didn’t answer my request for comment.
  • Legislation allowing herdshares is inching along in Massachusetts as well, after several false starts in previous years. Massachusetts has long allowed raw milk sales from the farm by licensed dairies, but herdshare legislation would legalize distribution from very small dairies that don’t want to formalize their operation to the extent required to obtain a raw milk permit.
  • Legislation that would allow raw milk sales from local farms is up again for consideration in New Jersey, a state that has long banned all raw milk sales and distribution. Its prospects aren’t clear.

It’s difficult to believe that the yuck-yuck stories emerging from West Virginia about legislators falling like flies from raw milk just appeared by accident. There’s mention in a few of the stories about an unnamed informant attributing the illnesses to raw milk. There’s usually a context to stuff like that, and I’d say the recent spate of raw-milk legal initiatives in the East is the context for the sick-legislator stories.

Nonetheless, raw milk activists in a number of states with pending legislation are now terrified that the West Virginia incident, as flimsy as it seems to be, could be used by opponents in the dairy industry, and their paid lackeys, as an excuse to derail initiatives currently moving along. You see, the opponents don’t have evidence of recent illnesses in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey to do their usual fear-mongering. So they seem to have concocted this West Virginia thing in hopes of impeding the rapidly falling last few anti-raw-milk dominoes.