The lead researcher for a study looking at medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder at the University of Arizona has been fired, and she is now claiming it is because of her cannabis lobbying.
Sue Sisley, formerly the assistant director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program at UA, was informed this week that her contract will not be renewed next year but was not given any reason in a letter from the interim dean of the College of Medicine.
But Sisley says the reasons are pretty clear. She says it is because of her advocacy at the state capitol for medical cannabis research – particularly in PTSD treatments for returning military veterans.
That included speaking at the state capitol to provide some sense to the argument when people like State Sen. Kimbery Yee blocked research funding based on her own political agenda. Keep in mind, the $6 million she blocked from being used was all excess from medical marijuana patient and dispensary fees. But Yee didn’t want it to go back to the benefit of medical marijuana patients.
In fact, it was specifically Sisley’s standing up to Yee’s bullying that Sisley says got her in trouble. Yee says that she blocked state money from going to the program because she was promised last year that it would only be funded by federal dollars.
“I have no formal proof,” she tells the Arizona Daily Star. But she said in April Garcia “confronted me about my political advocacy. He claimed that he was ordered by (University) President Hart to learn more about my activities at the Legislature. He claimed that (Senate President) Andy Biggs had called President Hart to accuse me of somehow using university resources to attack his rising star Kimberly Yee.”
Sisley contends that her job performance was stellar.
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Sisley told the LA Times. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.”
She points out that she is a part-time faculty member and has “plenty of free hours each week” outside of her employment to advocate for cannabis at the state capitol.
Now that Sisley is no longer at the university, it is unlikely that they will conitnue on with the study, according to the Daily Star. And the likelihood of her getting a faculty position at any other public university is slim, she says.
“Any university president is going to worry about taking me on,” she said. “Especially at a public university, where you have to rely on the good graces of the Legislature. These lawmakers hate me.”
And, really, that’s everyone’s loss. As Sisley told Arizona Public Radio back in May:
“We’re going to be looking at combat veterans who have treatment-resistant PTSD. So, that means they failed medication and psychotherapy. And we’re going to be examining five different dosages of both smoke and vaporized marijuana. I think that’s the real purpose of a public university … to be able to examine subjects that are hard or controversial or complex in an environment that isn’t plagued by politics.”
Apparently the University of Arizona wasn’t that environment.