Utahns will begin voting on three citizen-led initiatives when ballots start hitting mailboxes soon. This week, we’re bringing you stories of voices behind the initiatives—people who could be directly affected if they pass. The following story focuses on one person in support of Proposition 2, which would broaden access to medical marijuana in Utah.
As a sophomore at Brigham Young University six years ago, Brian Stoll was walking with a friend in the theater building on campus during a church group activity when he tumbled off a ledge below the darkened stage.
He woke up a few minutes later on a steel beam in a pit below the stage. His back and neck broken, Stoll soon found himself in a spiral of pain and medication.
“I then spent the next two years trying to do all the traditional routes: Going to the doctors, trying all the opioids they prescribed, physical therapy, chiropractic, and still found that I was in a lot of pain,” Stoll said.
The pain affected his ability to work. He struggled in school and took some time off.
But then Stoll discovered cannabis, which he said helped him get his life back. He was able to go back to work, finished his communications degree, and started dating.
In 2015, Stoll got engaged to his now-wife, Rachael. But as active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they wanted to get married in the Mormon temple. His bishop, who had never taken issue with Stoll’s use of marijuana to treat the pain, told him that he had to give it up if he wanted a temple marriage.
“That was pretty devastating for me then, having to choose between my fiancée and my health,” Stoll said.
Earlier this year, church leaders said they do not oppose medical marijuana under certain conditions, but they oppose Proposition 2, the ballot initiative before voters this November. But polling shows support for medical cannabis among active church members remains strong.
Since faced with that choice, Stoll has been taking opioids. But they cloud his mind more than the cannabis ever did, he said. And his pain has returned.
“There’s just always something that’s pretty sore,” he said. It can be hard to play with his 7-month old baby, Everly.
“Especially knowing that there is a better option out there,” he said. “That if I lived 100 miles in almost any direction from here, I could use it just fine and I could continue to be a productive member of society.”
Stoll, now 28, has been lobbying for the state to legalize medical marijuana since 2015, the same year he stopped using it. That was also the first year the state legislature took up the issue. In 2016, Stoll testified before a Utah Senate committee, urging them to pass a bill to legalize medical cannabis, which ultimately failed.
“If this were something that were to pass here, I would be able to have a temple recommend, and I would be able to use medical cannabis, and I would be able to work and function as normal,” he told the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee in February 2016.
Stoll is volunteering with TRUCE, a patient’s group supporting Proposition 2, and campaigning to get it passed. But even if it does, a new compromise hammered out by Utah lawmakers and advocates would rewrite parts of the initiative.
Stoll says he’s skeptical of that compromise.
“I do not trust the legislature,” he said. “They have repeatedly let us down. I’m just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under us.”
Stoll hopes voters turn out to support the measure. If it passes overwhelmingly, he says that would send a clear message to Utah lawmakers not to water down the compromise. But he worries opponents are working on that already.
Could Medical Cannabis Legalization Lead To More Marijuana Addiction? One U Researcher Says Yes
Much of the opposition to Proposition 2, the medical cannabis ballot initiative before Utah voters, has focused on what critics warn are the "unintended consequences" of broader legalization. But few have seen what those effects might be as up close as Dr. Adam Gordon.