UA pot researcher backers appeal to regents

2014-07-31T00:00:00Z 2014-07-31T09:41:12Z UA pot researcher backers appeal to regentsBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — Backers of a would-be medical-marijuana researcher plan to pressure the Board of Regents to intercede after the University of Arizona decided it will not rehire her.

Ric Pereyda, a veteran who has been at the forefront of supporting Dr. Suzanne Sisley, said supporters intend to show up at the next regents meeting in hopes of persuading board members to get one of the state’s other universities to become home to her study.

He said they are going to the meeting because calls to individual regents have so far gone unreturned.

The move comes one day after Andrew Comrie, the UA provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, said he will not overturn the decision of others not to renew what he described as Sisley’s “courtesy faculty title.” And Comrie said Sisley was not entitled to appeal the UA’s decision not to renew her other appointments for paid positions as her services were no longer needed.

The net effect is that Sisley finds herself without a home for her plans to research whether marijuana could be useful in helping those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sisley already has approval from several federal agencies as well as the university’s own Institutional Review Board.

But with no UA affiliation, that leaves her project without a home. And the organization that had agreed to find the funds has said its money follows Sisley and will not be awarded to the UA.

Sisley said the next logical move would be to have the research moved elsewhere. She already has approached Northern Arizona University President John Haeger.

In an email response, Haeger, who is retiring, said he will need to talk to his replacement. But he also told Sisley that because the issue has “now become so public, the regents will surely get involved at some point.”

With Sisley saying she got no further communication from Haeger, she and her supporters now are going directly to the board.

“The Board of Regents would be able to facilitate those discussions,” said Pereyda, paving the way for Sisley to make her bid to move the research to NAU or Arizona State University.

Jay Heiler, the board’s vice chairman, said he’s willing to listen to whatever Sisley’s supporters have to say at the next public meeting. But it remains doubtful that the board will intercede.

“I would not, without really strong reason, seek to micromanage the research enterprises at the universities around an issue like this,” Heiler said, though he said he will be “listening attentively” to any arguments for the regents to get involved.

Efforts to reach Haeger, who is in his last days at NAU, were unsuccessful.

Comrie rejected Sisley’s contention that she was let go because of her high-profile lobbying efforts at the Legislature this past session. She pushed legislation that would have allowed funds collected from medical marijuana users and dispensaries to fund her research.

While the measure cleared the House, it was blocked by state Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix. Sisley was quite vocal about Yee’s decision.

Comrie, however, said he found “no basis” to conclude the decisions about Sisley were related to her “legitimate activities to effect legislation and to advocate for the rights of veterans.”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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