Despite federal approval, AZ researcher faces roadblocks with cannabis study

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Valley doctor is conducting the first FDA-approved study of the effects of marijuana on veterans with PTSD. Well into the trial, she is still facing roadblocks, leading her to believe politics are blocking science.

[RELATED: Valley doctor testing marijuana on veterans with PTSD]

"They are given a pipe and they put the flower into the pipe and smoke it," said Dr. Sue Sisley with the Scottsdale Research Institute, speaking of the research-grade marijuana flower ground into a near powder. She is one year into her three-year control trial, studying the effectiveness of cannabis as treatment for PTSD.

"We've been struggling to get this study underway for seven years," Sisley said. "We've navigated tons of hurdles within the government at all levels."

Johns Hopkins University resigned from the trial, citing different goals and Sisley has fewer than half of the veterans she needs to participate.

"It's very difficult to try to do cannabis efficacy research in an atmosphere of prohibition," Sisley said.

She said they're getting no help from the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital. 

"We just want them to stop blocking information that would enable veterans to even be aware that this study exists," Sisley said.

"They find it much more effective, much more mild," said David Lucier with the Arizona Veterans and Military Leadership Alliance. He said veterans tell him they just want options.

The American Legion even urged the VA secretary to support Sisley's research. 

"It's not only that they want it, they need it," Lucier said. "They need different modalities, different treatments."

The Phoenix VA sent AZFamily a statement saying:

Federal law restricts VA’s ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana, or to refer Veterans to such research projects.

The researcher is free to work with veterans service organizations and state veterans officials who may not face such restrictions to identify candidates for her study.

"We have an epidemic of veteran suicide in this county and you would think the Phoenix VA hospital, rather than ignoring the study or refusing to share information, you'd think they'd be eager to cooperate," Sisley said.

They are looking for 46 more participants who have already tried medication or talk therapy. 

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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