As much as Arizona politicians like to brag about patriotism and America, their true colors ran from testing cannabis for PTSD.
A pot researcher from the University of Arizona was abruptly fired this week, without any named cause, in a move that reeks of political retaliation. Pot researcher Suzanne A. Sisley, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and a medical marijuana crusader, says the university sacked her because of her succeeding research. The University of Arizona remains tight-lipped about any cause for firing.
Reports the Los Angeles Times: “The University of Arizona has abruptly fired a prominent marijuana researcher who only months ago received rare approval from federal drug officials to study the effects of pot on patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. The firing of Suzanne A. Sisley, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, puts her research in jeopardy and has sparked indignation from medical marijuana advocates.”
Sisley, who had federal approval for her research, was specifically studying how medical marijuana may assist those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sisley said her contract with the university was “non-renewed,” and as is the school’s option, they did not have to provide any reason for letting her go.
Sisley spoke to the Huffington Post, calling her firing a “deliberate suppression of all of my academic pursuits. Every single position I had there was eliminated. I was stripped of 100 percent of my salary support and it’s hard to ignore the fact that all of my work surrounds marijuana.”
When questioned as to why she was fired, Sisley said she believes “political advocacy occurring in the last legislative session” against marijuana, a word she calls “politically radioactive,” seemed to put her “in the cross hairs of hyper conservative legislators who disagree with conducting with this kind of research.”
Sisley says the letter from the university releases her come September 26, and that no explanation is offered. The termination memo was emailed to Sisley from Stuart Flynn, dean of the university’s College of Medicine. “In accordance with those policies, my decision is final and is not subject to further administrative review,” read the pink slip.
Despite having approval from both the FDA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to purchase pot from a government-run farm in Mississippi and study it, Sisley says “many conservative lawmakers oppose research because they see it as a strategy for legalization, to uncover the merits of marijuana,” something Sisley says they don’t want.
This despite the fact that 23 states now have laws on their books that legalize the use and limited production of medical marijuana for those that qualify under state law.
Chris Sigurdson, a university spokesman, said “the university has received no political pressure to terminate any employee.”
Sisley’s study was designed to involve veterans who would use marijuana in an observation facility on campus. She had lobbied state lawmakers for approval to use state funds collected at medical marijuana dispensaries to help pay for the work. When a powerful Republican senator maneuvered to block that money, some of Sisley’s allies launched an unsuccessful recall effort.
Sisley said she did not get involved, but that university officials were irate when some activists she described as “overzealous” put the university logo on one of their political flyers. Sisley said a university vice president ordered her to draft a statement outlining all her political activism, which she did.
“I didn’t even support the recall,” Sisley said. “I thought it was a waste of energy.”
Sisley said that she will likely land with another university, although obtaining a faculty position will now be difficult. Even if she is allowed to continue her research, starting over at another university means spending months attempting to persuade school research boards to grant her approval.
“Any university president is going to worry about taking me on,” she said. “Especially at a public university, where you have to rely on the good graces of the Legislature. These lawmakers hate me. This is just going to delay everything for a year or two. It is just another awful delay for this study.”
(Linsey Bald contributed to this story)