Sue Sisley's research on the efficacy of medical marijuana treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans has finally begun.
The first two veterans in the study have received their marijuana and 36 will join them over the next several months. Out of more than 300 veterans that volunteered for the study, only 12 have been approved. The other 10 are awaiting their turn to start the study.
The entire study is expected to take two years.
Sisley's new challenge is finding more volunteers to participate.
Volunteers must not only have been diagnosed with PTSD that hasn't been able to have been treated in other ways, but also mustn't already be regular pot smokers.
In addition to Sisley's Scottdale site, 38 veterans will be partaking in the study at John Hopkins University in Baltimore under the study's principal investigator, Marcel Bonn-Miller.
The process started in 2009 has been arduous and is far from complete, but the commencement of clinical trials is a huge step down the path of progress.
Sisley partnered with the California-based group, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non-profit research organization that helps conduct studies to show how drugs like MDMA, LSD and marijuana can have medical benefits.
While the process of approval for new drug treatments is often drawn-out, even under non-controversial circumstances, it typically doesn't take eight years to get to clinical trials.
The Food and Drug Administration, along with an alphabet soup of other government agencies dedicated to providing strict oversight of scientists' use of marijuana, has proved a challenging gatekeeper for Sisley and MAPS.
The most notable setback highlights a major issue in the U.S. government's handling of marijuana research. For a long time, the National Institute on Drug Abuse was the sole grower of marijuana used for medical research.
Not only does that create a monopoly, opening up a possibility for low-quality product that may interfere with research, but the organization's single grow site at the University of Mississippi can't bust out the bud fast enough.
That's where MAPS stepped in to challenge the monopoly legally, and won in 2015.
Sisley was also fired from the University of Arizona—likely in connection to the study, though they'll deny it—
under the behest of then-Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs in July 2014. Sisley believes her termination was in response to attempts at gaining state funding for the study.
A $2.16 million donation from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment helped Sisley and MAPS set up a new site, independent of the state.
Now, two years later, Sisley is able to start providing veterans who have PTSD with lab-quality marijuana in a study aimed at showing a beneficial side to marijuana—a rare goal in government-sanctioned studies.
Sisley's trial consists of four types of marijuana: a strain with high THC, a strain with high CBD, a strain with equal amounts of both and a placebo.
Veterans in the study will smoke two joints a day and record the effects.
Interested volunteers can email Sisley and MAPS at firstname.lastname@example.org