Twin brothers, both devout Mormons, are among a growing legion of Utah residents embracing medical marijuana as a way to treat a host of ailments.
Nathan Frodsham has advanced degenerative disc disease, leaving him with burning pain as nerves in his neck are pinched by bones. The pain made long days working in his job as a data scientist difficult, and he began looking for ways to manage it. While living in Seattle, where medical marijuana is legal, Frodsham received a prescription for cannabis from his doctor.
He sought guidance from his local church leaders, who told him, "That’s something you can take up with you and your own personal relationship with God," he said.
Once he started using the drug, he felt back to his normal self and cut back on painkillers. "Cannabis helps significantly. Probably better than anything I’ve used before," he told KSL−TV.
But he was transferred to Utah, where’s it’s not legal for him to keep using the drug, and he says his health is suffering because of it.
Utah’s law only allows those with severe epilepsy to use cannabis extract oil that doesn’t contain psychoactive properties.
His brother Aaron Frodsham is a doctor who works with cancer patients and joined his brother in pushing for officials to legalize medical marijuana in Utah. One of their first converts was their devout father, John Frodsham, who said he too wants officials to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
"I only knew it in the negative side and always believed it was a drug that was very dangerous, and that it was addicting," he said of his changed stance on the issue.
While their devout family is pushing for change, their church is not on board. As state lawmakers contemplated a proposal earlier this year that would broadly expand the use of medical marijuana in Utah, the Salt Lake City−based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter−day Saints opposed the measure, saying it worried the law could have unintended consequences.
The church’s opposition was credited to helping kill the proposal at the Legislature, where most lawmakers are members of the faith.
More recently, Mormon leaders took a more active stance against expanding marijuana access. The church issued letters to members in October, urging them to vote against ballot measures that would legalize marijuana in Arizona, California and Nevada.
The LDS church said it feels marijuana in homes is a risk for children and that it can cause brain development problems for youth.
Despite that campaign from the church, the Frodshams say they’re meeting with church leaders and lawmakers to try to make their case for medical marijuana.
"By far the benefits outweigh the risks," John Frodsham said. "Without it there are just so many people who can’t get relief."