A new study wants to blaze a trail in marijuana research, and it’s calling on smokers for help.
Eligible marijuana users are invited to participate in a paid, anonymous series of surveys over the course of one year as part of a groundbreaking study in medical marijuana, led by one of the medical field’s most prominent cannabis activists, Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Sisley, in joint effort with the University of Michigan, has also released an alternative, one-time survey in hopes of capturing more participants who may not be interested in or eligible for the long-term commitment.
Sisley is hoping to study specifically how medical marijuana has affected patients’ lives in terms of “pain management, quality of life, and the use of other medications,” according to marketing materials obtained by VICE News.
Both studies generally require all participants be at least 18 years old. The long-term survey also requires a medical cannabis certification in the user’s state of residence, while the short-term also allows for users of medical marijuana in any state where it’s legal recreationally. Interested candidates who meet the eligibility requirements are invited to contact Dr. Kevin Boehnke at the University of Michigan to enroll.
The Michigan study is a new high for Sisley, who has been on the medical marijuana research grind for years with work that has proved to be, at times, as contentious as her subject matter. Before she moved to the University of Michigan, Sisley was affiliated with both the University of Arizona and Johns Hopkins University — appointments that both ended in controversy.
Sisley was abruptly fired from the University of Arizona, where she earned her medical degree, in 2014 — just months after she was granted permission from the federal government to study the effect of weed on post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the significance of the rare approval, granted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Sisley was terminated without any official explanation and told the decision was unappealable, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.
Sisley, who did not return a request for comment from VICE News, nevertheless told the LA Times in 2014 that she believed she was fired because the publicity from the grant offended Republican legislators overseeing the public university.
"This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers," Sisley told the paper. "I pulled all my evaluations, and this is not about my job performance."
Three years later, she joined Johns Hopkins University, where she planned to study the effects of medical marijuana on veterans with PTSD. But the study fell apart because of federal rules requiring the weed used in the trial be grown by the government when researchers found the government weed was moldy and did not contain enough THC to be studied effectively, the Washington Post reported. Sisley ultimately went public with the information, and faced with the choice of openly challenging federal regulations or canceling the study altogether, JHU chose to back out before a single patient was ever enrolled.
Sisley’s latest effort, however, seems to be in much better shape. UMich has given Sisley the official green light, sending out widespread calls for survey participants late last week. Plus, it seems unlikely Michigan legislators will take offense to the subject matter: Legislation allowing licensed dispensaries to sell medical marijuana passed in Michigan in 2016, and a small college upstate, Northern Michigan University, recently added a cannabis major to its studies under a medical context.