UA professor leading medical marijuana research for PTSD fired - Tucson News Now

UA professor leading medical marijuana research for PTSD fired

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A University of Arizona assistant professor who has spearheaded research in medical marijuana used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been fired.

UA College of Medicine Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Sue Sisley claims the termination of her contract was due to her controversial research that would have looked at the safety and efficacy of using marijuana to treat PTSD.

"To suppress this kind of critical research for our veterans is just appalling," Sisley said.

Last week, Sisley received a letter from UA's Telemedicine Program stating that her contract will not be renewed next year. Sisley received another letter on Monday stating her contract with the UA College of Medicine will not be renewed.

Sisley said the terminations did not provide an explanation and that they happened at the cusp of her launching her research, which has been years in waiting. She received FDA approval for the study, including initial approval from a UA institutional review board, according to Sisley.

Sisley said she waited on secondary approval in order to secure a location at the UA campus to conduct the study, until she received notification of her contract termination last week.

Her biggest concern is for the countless veterans across the country, including those in Tucson, who were eager to be part of the research. But now she is not sure about its future.

"What other scientific investigator is going to embark on marijuana research seeing what the outcome was for my career?" Sisley said.

Sisley also made claims that the UA has sided with conservative lawmakers in the state legislature who oppose medical marijuana research.

"The reason why taxpayers support state universities is to provide a sanctuary for controversial work. And that was the problem. I was at the forefront of the most controversial research that was happening at the UA," Sisley said.

An official with the Arizona Health Sciences Center at the UA said they do not comment on personnel issues but provided a response via e-mail.

"The UA has not received political pressure to terminate any employee. Also in 2013, the UA championed state legislation to ensure that universities could perform medical marijuana research on campus," stated George Humphrey, Assistant Vice President at the AHSC Office of Public Affairs.

Humphrey cited SB1443, a bill that allows medical marijuana research projects at university campuses.

Humphrey also said conceivably, this type of research could occur at UA in the future, per the state legislation. But Sisley's specific project will likely not continue.

The university has offered Sisley a short-term appointment that will let Sisley continue her position through the end of September.

Sisley said the issue is not being fired, but the countless veterans suffering from PTSD who say medical marijuana could help them.

"I don't need the money. I need to help these vets. The number of suicides that we have each day of these precious veterans, we need to help reduce their suffering," Sisley said.

Sisley said she plans to undergo an appeals process to reconsider her termination.

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