Pubdate: Fri, 28 Nov 2014
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 The Arizona Republic
Author: Ken Alltucker


Colo. Poised to Give Her a $2 Million Grant

After her research team secured preliminary approval this week for a 
$2 million grant from the state of Colorado to study how marijuana 
affects veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, a metro Phoenix 
doctor said she no longer needs an Arizona university to house the study.

Sue Sisley was ousted from her University of Arizona position earlier 
this year for what she believes were political reasons after she 
clashed with state lawmakers over medical-marijuana research. 
Northern Arizona University refused to hire her, and Arizona State 
University has not said whether it will offer a position.

But Sisley said that Colorado's decision to fund her marijuana study 
allows her to pursue the study even without an Arizona university lab.

"That's the beauty of this grant," Sisley said in an e-mail. "The 
Colorado health department believed in the quality of this research 
regardless of whether I was aligned with an Arizona university or not."

Sisley said a revised plan will split the study in two locations. 
Half of the 76 participating veterans will get marijuana at a 
yet-to-be-determined location in Arizona. The other group will be 
studied at Johns Hopkins University. Ryan Vandrey, a professor at 
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's behavioral pharmacology research 
unit, will coordinate the Johns Hopkins half of the study.

Colorado's grant lists Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, of the University of 
Pennsylvania and Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for 
PTSD, as the primary investigator who will coordinate and oversee 
both sites. Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Multidisciplinary Association 
for Psychedelic Studies is the organization that will receive the grant.

Sisley wants to keep her part of the research project in Arizona 
because she said she's commited to local veterans suffering PTSD. She 
said a private donor has offered her free lab space in north 
Scottsdale, and she may seek an academic appointment at an 
out-of-state university while conducting the research in Arizona.

Sisley said she has not heard whether ASU will offer her a position. 
An ASU spokesman said that the university is still considering 
whether to offer a position.

UA officials have not publicly discussed why Sisley's contract was 
not renewed this year, but the university released a letter that it 
sent Sisley about the contract termination. The letter cited changes 
to the university's telemedicine program and a completed contract 
with the Arizona Department of Health Services as two factors. Her 
associate faculty appointment was an unpaid position.

Sisley believes her contract termination was the result of political 
pressure after she was connected to a short-lived recall attempt of 
Arizona Sen. Kimberly Yee, who killed a bill that could have funded 
research with fees collected from the state's medical-marijuana program.

Sisley said Colorado's endorsement of the PTSD study is "a true 
vindication of its scientific merits, and further highlights how 
shameful it is that no Arizona university is willing to embrace this 
crucial research."

The Colorado award is one of eight grants totaling $7.6 million 
recommended this week by Colorado's medical marijuana scientific 
advisory council for study of diseases such as Parkinson's, pediatric 
epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease. The Colorado Department of 
Public Health and Environment's health board will decide Dec. 17 
board meeting whether to approve the grants.

Ken Gershman, a manager with Colorado's medical marijuana research 
grant program, said that the advisory council was aware that Sisley 
is no longer affiliated with an Arizona university but that did not 
affect the decision.

"It was not a factor that got in the way," Gershman said. "The 
advisory council was impressed with the eight that we chose to recommend."

Vandrey, of Johns Hopkins University, said the study will evaluate 
four types of smoked marijuana give to veterans with PTSD. He said 
the study will vary the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that 
veterans receive, with the goal of evaluating harm or benefit. All 
participating veterans will get marijuana, with the group receiving 
lower doses of THC serving as a placebo.

"I am not an advocate for or against marijuana," Vandrey said. "I am 
a scientist who is looking to (gather) the evidence."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom