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Dr. Sue Sisley and Medical Cannabis

Dr. Sisley’s Cannabis Study with Veterans with PTSD in Peril

In 2009, Dr. Sue Sisley began the arduous task of setting up a study to ascertain whether or not medical cannabis helped veterans struggling with PTSD. She had to overcome many obstacles. Here’s the link to the story I wrote several months ago about the process. I am very disappointed to report that her study with the University of Arizona and John Hopkins University has completely fallen apart. She is now entirely on her own. She has to find 76 Arizona veterans willing to participate in her study. This is no easy task since the VA policy is still that of denying our veterans the use of medical cannabis. In fact, VA doctors are not allowed to prescribe, promote or even discuss the usage of medical cannabis with veterans.

She has no advertising budget, making it very difficult to attract AZ veterans to the study. Very few people even know about it. She has been denied access to the Phoenix VA hospital with the excuse that referring veterans to her study would violate VA national policy and federal law. So far, she only has 16 participants. She must screen hundreds of veterans to find those who meet the study’s criteria, without much help. They must have a service-connected disability with chronic PTSD. They must commit to a random, placebo-controlled study for 14 weeks with 6 month follow-up.

She was fired by UA in 2013 for undisclosed reasons. She suspects that it was due to the loss of support by Arizona state lawmakers whom she had to lobby to fund her project.¬†Then, last March, she was dropped by John Hopkins University with the excuse that their goals were not in alignment with MAPS’ goals. The study was sponsored by Santa Cruz, CA-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and funded with a $2.1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and¬†Environment. The loss of Baltimore based John Hopkins University as a partner means the loss of Baltimore area veteran participants in the study. She also had to hire additional staffers to replace those from John Hopkins University.

The samples of cannabis she received neither looked nor smelled anything like medical cannabis. She described them as “green talcum powder.” Laboratory testing indicated that they contained yeast and mold. Small amounts of lead were also detected. They did not contain the potency that she requested in her study protocol. Several samples which claimed to contain 13% THC actually contained 8%. There is only one facility in the entire country which is licensed by the DEA to supply cannabis for research purposes. It is a 12-acre cannabis farm at the University of Mississippi, run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The NIDA claimed they have never had any complaints in the past. They didn’t do any laboratory testing on the samples they sent Dr. Sisley. She had them tested by 2 independent laboratories. The Obama Administration indicated that it was willing to expand the number of federally approved cannabis growers, but the Trump Administration’s stance on this policy is unclear.

Dr. Sisley plans to persevere and go forward with her study. She appealed to the American Legion in hopes they would help set up a meeting with VA Secretary David Shulkin to discuss her study and lack of access to the Phoenix VA hospital. Based on remarks he recently made about the potential benefits of medical cannabis for veterans, Dr. Sisley is hoping that Shulkin will be an ally. She wants the public to understand that she is not a cannabis activist but a scientist. This is all about collecting scientific data and making it public.

If you know any Arizona veterans who meet the criteria to participate in the study, please share this article with them!

Source: Ken Alltucker, The Republic, Arizona Researcher Stubborn To Study Pot As PTSD Treatment, June 9, 2017

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