America's struggle with caring for its military veterans is a well-documented disgrace. Combat veterans are more likely to be homeless, addicted to drugs, and suicidal than civilians. And with half of veterans suffering from chronic pain, opiate use is soaring.
For years, veterans self-medicating with cannabis swore that the plant brought relief that prescription pills and opiates simply did not (in a twist, ex-soldiers may be consuming some of the very poppies they saw in Afghanistan). Earlier this year, following a lengthy delay, the federal government approved a University of Arizona researcher's efforts to study marijuana's efficacy in treating post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.
The study was to begin this summer. It won't, now that the researcher, Dr. Suzanne Sisley, has been fired from her position at the university. It's no coincidence: Sisley claims her support for researching cannabis's medical potential got her canned.
Sisley worked for five years to get the cannabis necessary to conduct her research, which was funded in part by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). She had FDA approval to start seeing how weed helped 50 veterans, but it wasn't until this year, could she get National Institute of Drug Abuse approval to access government-grown weed to examine (Uncle Sam maintains a taxpayer-funded weed farm at the University of Mississippi).
Work was to begin this summer, but word came down from the university last week that her contract in three different positions at the school would not be renewed. Her last day at the school is in September.
Sisley says it was her "political activism" that led to her dismissal. She campaigned publicly to get the funding as well as the weed to conduct her study, and sparred publicly with members of the Arizona legislature who tried to block her work, the Arizona Republic reported.
The university denied that politics led to her dismissal, according to the Phoenix New Times. Sisley says she'll appeal and possibly seek legal action. But in the meantime, the study -- and meaningful research into cannabis's medicinal potential -- is in limbo. Just like our veterans.