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A brother's pain changes an LDS family's view of medical marijuana

By Heather Simonsen  |  Posted Nov 1st, 2016 @ 7:35pm


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MURRAY — Twin brothers Nathan and Aaron Frodsham grew up in Dallas and later, Utah. One became a data scientist. The other, a doctor who works with cancer patients.

Both want medical marijuana, or cannabis, legalized.

"It was such a taboo topic," said Nathan Frodsham, who lives in Murray.

It's a decision neither brother takes lightly. "I was against a wall," he said. "I basically ran out of options."

Nathan suffers from advanced degenerative disc disease. "When I saw the MRI of his neck, I thought, 'Oh no. This is not good,'" said Aaron Frodsham of Salt Lake City. "Essentially, it's bone on bone, and those nerves that are coming out the side are being pinched by those bones."

While working at Amazon in Seattle, Nathan Frodsham's 60-hour weeks at his computer became difficult. He tried everything Eastern and Western medicine could offer to relieve the pain.

"It's like a burning sensation right through here," he said, pointing to the back of his neck.

Nothing worked. His doctor prescribed cannabis. "I didn't know," Nathan Frodsham said. "I thought maybe it was always going to be subculture."

A devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he talked to local church leaders. Their answer? "That's something you can take up with you and your own personal relationship with God," he said.

Frodsham took medical cannabis and said his faith grew stronger, and he became healthier. "It helped so much, I was like, 'Oh, I'm back to normal.'"

Aaron Frodsham said, "I saw you before and after, and I just remember being very surprised, and I think you cut back almost completely on your narcotic medications, which was almost unheard of."

Job promotions took Nathan Frodsham home to Utah. But now, he can't take medical cannabis legally. Last year, he was laid off by his employer one week before three unsuccessful neck surgeries.

Sitting for eight- to 12-hour days at his computer isn't possible. "I shouldn't anymore," he said. "Not unless I can reduce the inflammation and reduce the pain."

He's allergic to anti-inflammatories but has no problem with cannabis. "Cannabis helps significantly. Probably better than anything I've used before."

He says his health has gone downhill since moving to Utah. So much so he's found an unlikely convert to his cause: his father. "I thought I would never see that day," Aaron Frodsham said.

John Frodsham has served in LDS bishoprics. "I have a very strong belief in God," the Murray resident said. "I've been a lifetime member of the LDS faith."

He, too, wants medical marijuana legalized. "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.

The LDS Church has urged defeat of any measure promoting the recreational use of marijuana and agrees with the American Medical Association that further study and research is needed on medical applications.

Earlier this year, in response to proposals by members of the Utah Legislature the church issued the following statement:

"In our view, the issue for the Utah Legislature is how to enable the use of marijuana extracts to help people who are suffering, without increasing the likelihood of misuse at a time when drug abuse in the United States is at epidemic proportions, especially among youth. … We continue to urge legislators to take into account the acknowledged need for scientific research in this matter and to fully address regulatory controls on manufacture and distribution for the health and safety of all Utahns."

The Frodshams said they have met with legislators and church leaders to try and change the law and the way people think about 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."

The brothers are close, and though their lives have taken different paths, they advocate for each other, and for change.

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