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Phoenix VA blocks local doctor from giving lecture on marijuana study

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A Phoenix doctor is conducting a study this summer focusing on how marijuana affects veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Sue Sisley wants to give a lecture on her cannabis study to medical staff at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She said the hospital is blocking her from making a presentation, even though her study has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The notion that the Phoenix VA hospital refuses to allow that information to be shared with their medical staff is really shameful,” Sisley said.

She added if the VA medical staff gets the information, they could recommend vets that might be good fits for the study.

“The highest density of veterans who meet those criteria are at the Phoenix VA hospital,” Sisley said.

She said the VA has a duty to support science that might uncover new treatments for vets with PTSD.

“If they refuse to do that, I think that is negligent and it’s an abomination,” Sisley said.

Even though medical marijuana is legal in Arizona, it is still a federal crime to possess pot. Dr. Samuel Aguayo, associate chief of staff for research at the Phoenix VA medical center, said they are not permitted to promote or recruit veterans for marijuana research.

“VA medical staff are not authorized to make a decision on whether marijuana and marijuana research is appropriate for veterans,” Aguayo said.

Both houses of Congress passed legislation last week that would allow VA doctors to talk with veterans about medical marijuana as a treatment option. If that ends up being signed into law, Aguayo said they may reconsider allowing Sisley’s lecture at the VA.

“We will examine what the law allows and doesn’t allow,” Aguayo said. “It may have an impact on our decision to permit this activity here at the Phoenix VA or not,” Aguayo said.

Aguayo said until VA doctors are legally allowed to talk with patients about medical marijuana, having medical staff recommend vets for Sisley’s marijuana study would be inappropriate.

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