A physician with the University of Arizona who testified twice on behalf of Minnesota's medical cannabis bills was fired recently for what she's alleging is political retaliation for her research and activism.
Last session, Dr. Sue Sisley spoke to lawmakers here about the barriers she's faced at the federal level when trying to get approval for research. Instead, she urged states to take their own initiative and assured Minnesotans that "the sky hasn't fallen" in the 20, including Arizona, that already have medical cannabis programs on the books.
George Humphrey, a spokesman for the U of A, says he's unaware of Sisley's testimony in Minnesota, so he couldn't comment on whether it played a role in her contract not being renewed. But even if he did, he wouldn't be able to talk about it because "policy prohibits us from discussing this action."
He did, however, dismiss the charge that there was political pressure to fire Sisley, and noted that the university has supported legislation providing cannabis research to be done on campus.
The timing of Sisley's firing is at the very least unfortunate. In March, she received final approval from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to begin research, after four years of waiting, on the affects of smoked cannabis on veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The following month, Sisley claims, she was confronted by an administrator who told her that Andy Biggs, Arizona's Republican Senate president, disliked the attention her work was bringing the university. She says she was ordered to draw up a list of her recent political activism -- which would have included one trip to Minnesota and one to Kentucky -- while the university hired an investigator to keep an eye on her.
This isn't the first time the two have butted heads. Sisley approached Arizona lawmakers to use money earned from dispensaries to fund her study, and when Biggs maneuvered to block her, some of the physician's allies launched an unsuccessful recall, according to the L.A. Times.
"The Senate president and other right-wing lawmakers have been on the record saying they oppose marijuana research because they believe it is a strategy to promote marijuana legalization," Sisley says. "They try to suppress marijuana research at every turn."
On June 27, she received letters from the university saying her contract with the Telemedicine Program would not be extended past September 26, but providing no explanation.
Sisley, who maintains a private practice, could take the PTSD proposal to another university, and says she's already gotten offers. But even if she does accept one soon, her study would likely take another one to two years to get off the ground.