After getting our hopes up that there would finally be an FDA-approved, US government-supplied, triple-blind, clinical research trial on the use of medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress diagnosis* for our nation’s veterans, the University of Arizona has fired the researcher who received federal permission for the study.
It has taken four years for Dr. Suzanne Sisley to receive the government’s permission to begin trials on cannabis, a federally-designated Schedule I drug for which there is supposedly no medical benefit, despite the government’s own patent on it for medical uses, despite the government’s continued supplying of medical marijuana to four federal patients, and despite 23 states recognizing its medical usage, including the home of the University of Arizona.
To gain the government’s permission to study cannabis, Dr. Sisley first received approval from the FDA in 2011. This March, the Department of Health & Human Services finally approved the study, allowing marijuana from the federal government’s pot farm at the University of Mississippi to be used. In May, the University of Arizona signed a contract with Dr. Sisley and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the organization putting up a million dollars for the study. The last hurdle to clear was approval from the DEA for Dr. Sisley’s research space at the University of Arizona.
Now that Dr. Sisley has been terminated, it would take at least 18 months for her to secure a position at another university and be vetted for the PTSD/marijuana drug trial again. That is, if Dr. Sisley can secure another position. She fears that her work on cannabis research may have made her so “politically radioactive that no university wants to touch me.”
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Dr. Sisley explained. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.” According to Dr. Sisley, her work on marijuana garnered negative attention from lawmakers opposed to marijuana, who then pressured the university to fire her before her research could begin.
Officials at University of Arizona declined to discuss personnel matters, but did tell USA Today in an email, “You should know that UA has not received political pressure to terminate any employee," according to university spokesman George Humphrey. The University’s decision to fire Dr. Sisley is “final” and not subject to review.
* To me, the “D” in PTSD isn’t a “disorder.” It is a mental and moral injury inflicted on a healthy brain and post-traumatic stress is the symptom of that injury. There’s nothing “disordered” about a soldier experiencing PTSD, any more so than walking with a limp is a “disorder” of breaking your leg.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.