UA Denies Appeal of Medical Pot Researcher’s Firing

CBS 5 Arizona reports on the University of Arizona's rejection of marijuana researcher Dr. Sue Sisley’s appeal to be reinstated at the university. The article gives an overview of Sisley’s work to initiate an FDA-approved study of marijuana for PTSD and details the various political obstacles obstructing marijuana research. "If medical schools are forbidden from doing this, we're really missing out in advances in medical science," explains Dr. Richard Strand of the Arizona Wellness Chamber of Commerce.

Originally appearing here.

The University of Arizona professor researching the effects of marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder has seen her appeal for reinstatement go up in smoke.

Dr. Sue Sisley's contract was canceled by the university early in July but appealed the contract's termination, citing evidence that shows marijuana could benefit combat veterans with PTSD.

Sisley told CBS 5 News exclusively that on Monday, the university denied her appeal.

She said she's not out of options, though.

Her next move is to approach the state Board of Regents for support.

Sisley appealed her termination, claiming UA refused to tell her why she was fired.

"This is not a minor grant to examine the aesthetics of Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona period, but a million dollar study concerning the effects of a medicine that could aid our veterans who are committing suicide every day," Sisley's appeal states that was filed on Tuesday.

The downtown UA Phoenix Medical Campus psychiatrist said thousands of veterans return from overseas who suffer with the mental disorder. But Sisley said there's virtually no research on how marijuana could help with their symptoms.

The University of Arizona Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved Sisley's research in October 2012. But in January 2013, the National Institute on Drug Abuse still hadn't authorized it.

"NIDA will not fund any research whose goal is to find benefits of medical marijuana," said Dr. Richard Strand with the Arizona Wellness Chamber of Commerce. Strand said the NIDA is the only federal organization that cultivates marijuana for legal research.

"It's in the pipeline waiting in limbo until we can persuade NIDA to sell us the study drug and the DEA to give us a permit so we're allowed to store the drug on campus," said Sisley.

Strand said American universities are losing the global competition in this kind of research. 

"If medical schools are forbidden from doing this, we're really missing out in advances in medical science," Strand said.

Reviewers from the Health and Human Services Department blocking Sisley at this point say there was substantial concern over this study and its use of "drug naive" participants.

The drug is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a "Schedule 1" drug, putting it in the same category as heroin, LSD and ecstasy. The drug is defined by the agency as a high potential for abuse.

Sisley has been working with vets with PTSD for 15 years.

A group of veterans are gathering at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix on Tuesday afternoon to call for Sisley's reinstatement.