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Updated Aug 3, 2014 - 7:27 pm

UA professor claims she was fired for pot study

PHOENIX -- A doctor at the University of Arizona is claiming she was fired from the school for attempting to study the effects of medical marijuana.

Dr. Sue Sisley said she has spent the last four years preparing to study medicinal marijuana use in combat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, Sisley claims she has been terminated because of it.

"They've been trying to suppress this work at every turn," Sisley said. "That's my impression."

About a week ago, Sisley said she was given non-renewal papers that will take effect on Sept. 26, terminating her employment at the university.

Though the papers do not provide a reason for termination, Sisley said she believes it's because of the study.

"I've been a faculty member and in good standing for seven or eight years," she explained. "This is not an issue about my job performance. I've looked at my (evaluations); they're all satisfactory."

Even though the school's Institutional Review Board approved the study nearly two years ago, according to Sisley, she claims political pressure from anti-marijuana legalization advocates is to blame for the halting of the study and her eventual termination.

"The university has been afraid of the optics of conducting this research on their campus for the last two years," she said. "They said, 'We're not going to be able to do this here because it's not legal to do marijuana research on campus,' and I said, 'Of course it's legal.' This is an FDA-approved study, it's federally regulated and supersedes any state law they were concerned about."

Sisley said because the study involved marijuana, the school intentionally avoided accommodating the research.

"The U of A can say what they want about how supportive they are of marijuana research, but the proof is not in their words but in their action, or I should say, their inaction," she said.

In the two years since the school approved the study, Sisley said she was never provided with a place to conduct the research.

"The fact is, if I was a cancer researcher doing any other mainstream work, I would have had space immediately," she said.

Sisley claims she has never smoked marijuana, is not involved in the marijuana industry and that her only objective is to see if marijuana is a treatment that could help troubled veterans.

"I've been working with vets now for almost 15 years," she said. "The data about 22 veterans committing suicide each day in this country is so heartbreaking, especially knowing that there might be a treatment that could help reduce their suffering, and that's all this study was trying to do."

Sisley said she has an attorney and is appealing the decision.

Attempts to contact the University of Arizona for comment were unsuccessful.

About the Author

A southern California native, Mark Remillard began working in radio in 2010 while in community college as a host of late night and weekend programming for publicly supported 88.5 FM KSBR. While working through college, Mark also interned for the Bill Handel Radio Program at Los Angeles' KFI AM640, where he began his work in journalism. Mark moved to Arizona in August 2012 to finish his bachelor's degree at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and graduated in August 2014. Mark began working as a reporter for KTAR in November 2012.


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