SALT LAKE CITY — Some one-time staunch advocates for Utah's medical marijuana initiative, including the man who wrote the proposition's first draft, now oppose the controversial ballot measure.
And some of their former allies literally turned their backs on one of them Thursday at a news conference where a coalition of religious, political and civic leaders and cannabis patients urged Utahns to vote against Proposition 2.
Members of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education or TRUCE faced the back wall of the auditorium as Nathan Frodsham, the former vice president of the organization's patients group, spoke from the stage.
"I think it's because I've been such an ardent advocate in favor of Prop 2 and maybe they see this as a betrayal and so that's their way of expressing disappointment," he said afterward. "But it doesn't change how I feel about this."
Christine Stenquist, TRUCE president and executive director, said they turned around because Frodsham has "chosen to side with his church and leave patients aside, and we felt like that was a turn against us and we turned against him."
The group opposing the measure, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah Medical Association and Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, vowed to work together on a solution "for all Utahns."
Frodsham, a Murray business consultant who used cannabis legally for a degenerative disc disease while living in Seattle, said he is a Latter-day Saint. He said he believes the coalition can work with state lawmakers to come up with an "upgrade" that embodies the benefits of the initiative with better safeguards and regulations.
"I think this is a much better, safer pathway forward that will ensure doctor support, that will ensure the patients get the care they need and a lot more," said Frodsham, who as recently as last month wrote an op-ed for the Deseret News favoring Prop 2.
"I still think it's really odd that we make plants illegal but I think this is the necessary step to get in to have medical on board," he said. "If we don't have medical on board, it's destined to fail."
Todd Moon began looking at ways to provide patients more access to cannabis after his now 28-year-old son started using it to control seizures. He makes weekend jaunts to Colorado from his Blanding home for treatment.
"But it's a real pain to have to go there all the time when all I'm trying to do is medicate him to have better control of his physical body," he said.
Moon wrote the initial "concept" draft for the ballot proposition two years ago, totalling 131 pages. Backers of the idea eventually whittled what is now Prop 2 to 28 pages.
"It makes sense if you're trying to launch something to strip it down to the bare-bones basics, but there was a lot of things that I felt were really important that got dropped out," he said, specifying patient safety and regulatory control.
For example, he said there needs to be a mechanism for removing contaminated products from the market.
Moon said those types of things would be included in a new bill for the Legislature.
Melissa Butler, a home health and hospice nurse and member of TRUCE, remains firmly behind Prop 2 even though her church — she said she is a devout Latter-day Saint — has come out against it.
"I have a firm testimony of the gospel, but that testimony doesn't extend to opinions of church members, even those in leadership positions. I feel like that is a separate issue from the gospel," she said.
Those looking to come up with a new proposal, she said, are "more talk than action."
"If they're going to take action, why haven't they already?" she said.
"At this point, I feel like medical cannabis has been in the works in this state for years and years," Butler said. "We finally got a great proposition written that strikes a great balance for patients and for the rest of the state."
Enedina Stanger has long advocated for legalized medical marijuana in Utah, but said Prop 2 is not the way to go.
"I believe it does not have the true interest of patients at heart," she said.
Stanger, who has a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, moved with her husband, Michael, and two young daughters to Colorado for access to medical cannabis, though the family wants to live in Utah.
Since moving and using cannabis as part of new health regimen, Stanger said she no longer needs a wheelchair and can walk and run again. She said there is hope for Utah to come up with a solution.
"There is way for all Utahns to come to a united resolution to the medical cannabis dilemma we find ourselves in today," she said. "One day soon we will create legislation that will bridge patients and the medical community and so many suffering. We cannot allow fear to overcome faith in a peaceful resolution."