This week, University of Arizona professor and leading medical marijuana researcher Dr. Sue Sisley was fired from her position at the university. The University of Arizona refused to renew Dr. Sisley’s contract after advocates engaged in a contentious political struggle with state lawmakers to secure funding for her clinical study on the beneficial effects of marijuana on veterans with PTSD. Dr. Sisley cites her medical marijuana advocacy and research as the reason for her abrupt dismissal. The university’s action will significantly delay — or even end — her groundbreaking research, which had finally received almost all of the necessary federal approvals.
Sisley charges she was fired after her research – and her personal political crusading – created unwanted attention for the university from legislative Republicans who control its purse strings.
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Sisley said. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.”
In March, the National Institute on Drug Abuse moved to approve Sisley’s research. The decision came as a surprise because some researchers have long accused the institute of hostility to proposals aimed at examining the possible health benefits of marijuana.
Sisley’s study was designed to involve veterans who would use marijuana in an observation facility on campus. She had lobbied state lawmakers for approval to use state funds collected at medical marijuana dispensaries to help pay for the work. When a powerful Republican senator maneuvered to block that money, some of Sisley’s allies launched an unsuccessful recall effort.
Dr. Sisley has long been at the forefront of medical marijuana science, often traveling to testify in legislative hearings to support compassionate bills and derail the misinformation that is so often repeated by opponents of reform. MPP wishes her luck in appealing this decision and continuing her valuable research.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke Sunday on Meet the Press expressing his belief that states should ‘experiment’ with allowing adults to use marijuana recreationally, Washington Post reports. “I think we should leave it to the states,” Clinton said. “If the state wants to try it, they can. And they’ll be able to see what happens.” Though this seems to be a new take from the former president, he claimed that there are still many questions to be answered. He said, “This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going. Are there adequate quality controls? There’s pot and there’s ‘pot’; what’s in it? What’s going to happen? There are all these questions.” This is a similar stance to that of Clinton’s wife, Hilary, who recently changed her official position.
This is in stark contrast to how President Clinton treated the issue during his presidency. Clinton’s administration wanted to punish doctors for even discussing medical marijuana as an alternative treatment with patients. Many who look at this see it as the act of a shrewd politician who has changed his position due to a shift in the political landscape. It could, however, be indicative of where the Clintons are moving when it comes to the evolution of the issue of drug policy.
State regulators and state police recently performed sting operations on 20 different marijuana stores in the Denver and Pueblo areas to determine compliance with state law, reports 9 News. The conclusion they reached was undisputed: None of the stores were breaking the law by selling marijuana to people under the age of 21. In Colorado, marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol, including the stipulation that people without medical marijuana licenses may only purchase marijuana from retail establishments if they are 21 or older. The sting operations involved sending underage customers into stores to attempt to buy marijuana while being supervised by police officers. Shops who break the law face huge fines and can have their licenses revoked.
During the course of these sting operations, not a single underage buyer was allowed to purchase marijuana from any of the 20 shops. Business owners have welcomed this announcement as an important sign of the legitimacy of the industry and the effectiveness of the regulatory structure. In response to this news, Lewis Koski, the director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, issued a statement. He said, “We are pleased with the results and will continue to monitor the businesses to ensure that the compliance efforts are maintained.”
The Republican-controlled U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment Wednesday that is designed to prevent implementation of the District of Columbia decriminalization law that was approved earlier this year. The measure, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), blocks funding of the new law, which eliminates jail time as a punishment for marijuana possession and establishes a $25 civil fine for first-time offenders. The amendment must now be approved by the full House, and MPP is working to get the measure killed. If it is approved, it would take effect in October.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray told the Washington Post that the District will implement the law regardless of Congress’s action, even though its authority to enforce it beyond October remains questionable. Gray’s office also warned that the amendment might force the city to shut down the medical marijuana program that was finally implemented last year after being held up by Congress for more than a decade.
MPP issued a release with the following statement from Federal Policies Director Dan Riffle:
“The District of Columbia wisely decided to use stop wasting its own resources enforcing ineffective and racially biased laws and to allow those with serious illnesses whose doctors recommend it to use medical marijuana. Unfortunately, unlike every state in America that gets to determine its own laws, Washington, D.C. laws are reviewed by Congress where Washington, D.C. residents have no voting representatives.
“Marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol, and polls clearly show most Americans want to see it treated that way. We’ll do everything we can to restore democracy in D.C. and ensure this regressive amendment is rejected when it is considered by the full House. Mr. Harris’s antiquated, unscientific views on marijuana should be his constituents’ problem, not the District of Columbia’s.”
Advocates across the state of Michigan are hitting the streets in a major push to gather signatures that would decriminalize possession of small amounts marijuana in up to 18 cities. They have until July 29 to get the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. If you have not gotten involved already, it’s not too late to help!
Three communities out of the 18 have already qualified. The current effort follows similar campaigns in numerous other cities in years past. Last year, voters in Lansing, Ferndale, and Jackson voted overwhelmingly in favor decriminalization measures. In 2012, voters supported similar voter initiatives in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint. MPP wishes to thank everyone involved in this tremendous grassroots effort that is sweeping communities in Michigan!