On June 30, 2014, the University of Arizona fired Dr. Sue Sisley, the Principal Investigator (PI) of our planned study of marijuana for symptoms of PTSD in 70 U.S. veterans. The University of Arizona offered no explanation for their decision, informing Dr. Sisley that her academic appointment would be terminated as of September 26. On July 10, Caroline Garcia, Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Arizona, told MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin that the university supports the study and proposed an alternate PI. On July 11, Doblin sent a letter to Garcia stating that MAPS will stand behind Dr. Sisley in her appeal and wherever the study is ultimately conducted.
Dr. Sisley is now appealing her dismissal with legal representation by Jason Flores-Williams. Unless Dr. Sisley is reinstated, she cannot conduct the study at the University of Arizona and will need to find a new location. The controversy surrounding the University of Arizona’s decision has received widespread media attention including the Los Angeles Times, Reuters, AZ Central, and USA Today, plus upcoming reports from CNN and The New York Times.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved the study in March 2014, marking the first time in over 22 years that MAPS-sponsored researchers studying the benefits of whole plant marijuana for a specific medical condition were approved to purchase marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which maintains a monopoly on the supply of marijuana available for research in the U.S. The study also has approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Institutional Review Board at the University of Arizona.
The University of Arizona firing of Dr. Sisley doesn’t yet delay the study from starting since NIDA has informed MAPS in writing that it cannot provide the marijuana we need containing the cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) until about January 2015. MAPS and Dr. Sisley still have about six months to resolve the issue of where the study will be conducted.