A faculty member at the University of Arizona College of Medicine who researches the role of marijuana in relieving post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has formed a lobby group to persuade the Legislature to allow her to restart her research.
Sue Sisley, MD, already received permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the University’s Institutional Review Board to research how marijuana relieves PTSD in military veterans. The next step would have been getting approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which considers marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance on par with heroin and LSD.
Before she could take that step, however, the U of A, where she conducts her research, announced it would not permit marijuana on its campus for any reason. A new law prohibits marijuana on public school campuses but does not mention state universities and colleges. “Our policy is to comply with state law,” a U of A spokesperson told Howard Fisher of Capitol Media Services.
Sisley responded by forming a lobby group to change the law to allow marijuana research on state-run higher education campuses. She does not plan to endorse individuals for office or get involved in electoral politics.
UA’s decision surprised at least one lawmaker, Rep. Amanda Reeve (R-Phoenix), who says the university told her last year that the law would not impact marijuana research or studies, only the actual use of marijuana. That, however, is a key part of Sisley’s research.
The state Board of Regents agrees with U of A’s current position that the law prevents such research.
Sisley is among several researchers who submitted proposals to the state Department of Health Services to expand the use of medical marijuana to PTSD patients. Health Services Director Will Humble rejected all of them on the grounds that there is not enough research to support it.
For his part, Humble would like the Legislature to allow him to funnel money to the Biomedical Research Commission to use to award support for research in using marijuana to treat PTSD.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) proposed a bill earlier this week to put medical marijuana on next year’s ballot as a voter referendum, for the second time in four years. Medical marijuana was approved by voters in 2010. The state constitution prohibits the Legislature from making changes to voter-approved referenda.
The state, however, has repeatedly violated this when it comes to funding AHCCCS, the state’s Medicaid program, which voters approved to extend in 2000.