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Monday, August 18, 2014

As Pot Laws Relax, Restrictions On Research Still Tight

A worker cultivates a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web inside a greenhouse, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 7, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

A worker cultivates a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web inside a greenhouse, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 7, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Medical marijuana is now legal in nearly half of all U.S. states, but doing research on the drug is harder than one might think. Because of federal laws and regulations, it can take years to get the approval necessary to start a study.

University of Arizona doctor Sue Sisley says she was fired for her research on marijuana. Sisley was leading a federally-approved study on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and medical marijuana, when the university cut ties with her.

A university spokesman says the decision was not politically motivated, and the school wants to continue the research on its campus. The case highlights the complexity and politics of pot research.

Sisley speaks to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.


  • Suzanne A. Sisley, MD, researcher and clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona. Her contract ends in September 2014.

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  • Marc Goldman

    This is why the federal government needs to be reigned in. American innovation can only happen after the government gets out of the way. Also, Dr. Sisley should really light up once and a while, maybe she was fired for being too uptight.

    • Whamadoodle

      Libertarian fallacy. Without laws, there is no economy, and without government involvement, there are no laws. That gives our economy over to any mafia or gangstas that feel like muscling people around.

      The government certainly should stop twisting this particular question the way it is, true. But the blanket statement “American innovation can only happen after the government gets out of the way” is simply incorrect. The Internet on which we’re writing was INVENTED by the government (the DARPA agency that invented it is a government agency, after all).

  • stampers

    I’m sure big pharma had nothing to do with her being fired…. The US govt doesn’t like it cause big pharma, which gets a lot of politicians elected, can’t get a patent on it and sell if for a 1000% markup to its customers. Shame on Arizona University…

  • Been There

    Whatever else you might think about the tenure process in American universities, if Dr. Sisley had tenure right now she would not be fired, or as the University puts it “her contract expired.” It would be nice if Dr. Sisley could continue right there, without delay, on her investigation of whole-plant marijuana for PTSD treatment.


    “University of Arizona doctor Sue Sisley says she was fired
    for her research on marijuana.”

    There seems to be some missing information from the quoted
    statement above. If Dr. Sisely was engaged in legitimate research for the government
    at the University of Arizona why was she fired? Here are the basic known facts
    that all the people of the planet Earth knows. Marijuana, before it became a
    relabeled item now labeled medical marijuana is used to get people high or in
    some sort of altered state, however, seldom if ever do these so called honest
    truth seeking inquires concerning marijuana aired on the ever address the
    effects of marijuana on a fetus when a women is pregnant and using marijuana or
    medical or not, including other drugs or alcohol. Marijuana seems to be exempt
    from these life altering problems. The often quoted facts by the World Health
    Organization is: The marijuana used today is much more potent than the
    marijuana of the 1960s and it can alter brain growth, however, people have
    short memories when it comes to the use of marijuana, perhaps their memories
    have been altered by the use of marijuana? Today we have a generation of people
    who are avid users and advocates of marijuana creating families who’s children
    may have been affected by the vapors from the weed their parents smoked at home
    or have been affected during pregnancy. Nor do these truth seekers ask why is
    there so many bi-polar people in all stages of life including attention deficit
    children or the increase of schizophrenia during the last 54 years? When I was
    a kid in grade or high school there were no kids or teenagers with attention
    deficit could it be it was because our parents did not smoke of marijuana? Nor
    does the Dr. or others go to the heart of the marijuana matter and ask a simple
    question: Would the public fly in an airplane if the pilot was smoking a few
    joints before flight, or did the pilot take his medical marijuana before flying
    his passenger plane? This question could be applied to a myriad of similar job
    related items that involves the public – just plug in the job operation that
    the public is involved in and one may be aware of the dangers of using any
    drugs or alcohol while engaged in any type of work. I have worked in the
    transportation field for 44 years and I have observed the real facts of
    marijuana use. Altered memories do not cut it in my field of expertise. I do
    not want repeat a course to a seaman countless of times because he or she
    cannot remember the course when sailing in a restricted channel while I am
    piloting 44,000 ton tanker, passenger, or cargo ship. In fact this is a tale,
    tale of a marijuana user and is the reason we drug test these people on ships
    of any size in America. What is amazing a user of drugs will sacrifice a good paying
    job for few drags of marijuana before going to work…. this is called an
    altered or mellow state which can cause and does pose a danger to the public.
    Last, I have no problem if a person smokes or takes medical marijuana, as long
    as he or she does not get married and reproduce pot heads and remains at home,
    or gains employment in important job related jobs that affects the public. Just
    stay home or in rehab in our taxes will take care of you. We could save a hell
    of a lot of research money concerning the marijuana topic with a simple
    statement: Marijuana will alter your state of mind including making common
    sense decisions – use at your own risk and do not drive a vehicle or operate

    • S David H de Lorge

      Nor do they ever address the millennia during which this and several other substances contributed to the cultivation of religious experience, and materially contributed to the actual foundations of several institutional world religions and their theologies. Not to mentions elements of several approaches to philosophy.

      So? . Tomahtoes, tomatoes? Yours? Mine?


        What the hell are you smoking? Thanks, anyway, you made my point.

        • S David H de Lorge

          Haven’t smoked cannabis for a long time. As far as I can tell, I’d be better off with a little dose of it at semi-regular intervals, spiritually, physically, and mood-wise these days, but it isn’t readily available to me, and without it I suffer from an amotivational syndrome.

          Being able to confront yourself and your anxieties, and willingness to explore a little further in order to optimize its helpfulness, make a real difference. Some casual use is stupid, or pathological, and much medical use of it would be improved with systematic information and guidance. That doesn’t delegitimize its informed use.

          As to the substantive merit of your reply to the substance of my comment, I am sorry that your knowledge of the history and anthropology of religion is so limited to the conventional narratives (and ignorance of the centuries of censorship), but it seems to me that you should question yourself when you find yourself captivated by the notion that your notions are beyond question.

          Now, as to your next attempt to impugn me, I’m waiting…. But why would you want to? I mean, what motivates you to such passion, at any toll on reason? Evidently it’s not drugs. Could it benefit from treatment?

    • Gregory Golden

      We are talking about using marijuana for the treatment of certain medical conditions. I think that your discourse is too broad. You pose interesting hypotheses but miss the mark. You speculate about psychiatric disease from your generation and argue that vapors are affecting children and that is why there’s an increase in psychiatric disease. This is preposterous….


        No speculations on my part, without getting personal, I have in depth first hand experience with the problems marijuana causes among the young including adults. Medical marijuana is a ruse to remain high in mellow as they say. Nor i am speculating concerning mental illness problems which for the most part is not a disease but abnormal malfunctions of the brain via causes that are many. Marijuana impairs memory…. I know this to be fact and not speculation. Like alcohol or marijuana a user will protect addiction until the last dog dies.

  • S David H de Lorge

    A true story. It deserves repeated retelling, and more.

  • rfra20

    I’m simply can’t help but be amazed by the controversy surrounding a relatively mild substance like marijuana when opiates are distributed like candy. And by the way how’s that war on drugs going? Seems like the cartels can get drugs to market for a lot less than big pharma…What a pathetic state of affairs.


  • Ahnanas Darsell

    Lets get real here. Provide weed/pot/marijuana to veterans for PTSD symptoms ?? Hmm..as an experienced Substance abuse counselo, r I smell only Disaster…. and more Addiction.!

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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