Phoenix VA Keeping Its Distance From Medical Cannabis Study

By Carrie Jung, Matthew Casey
Published: Monday, May 30, 2016 - 8:11am
Updated: Monday, May 30, 2016 - 8:25am
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(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
Phoenix VA hospital.
(Photo courtesy of Anthony Ameen)
Anthony Ameen, founder and CEO of Wings For Warriors, and former U.S. Navy Hospital Corpman

Controversy is brewing around the Phoenix VA Health Care System, cannabis research and veterans.
Phoenix will be one of two sites for the first clinical study of medical marijuana as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans. Former University of Arizona researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, will treat patients in Phoenix, and has asked to give a lecture about it at the VA.

But Sisley can’t give the presentation because VA doctors are prohibited from talking with veterans about cannabis, promoting its research and enrolling them in studies, said Dr. Samuel M. Aguayo, associate chief of staff for research at the Phoenix VA.

“We are here to protect our veterans, and to serve them the best that we can,” Aguayo said. “And in order to do that correctly, we need to follow federal law and VA regulations.”
The VA’s response to Sisley is bureaucratic and political, said Anthony Ameen, chief executive officer of Wings For Warriors, and a former U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman. Ameen supports medical cannabis because he’s seen it help fellow veterans.
“The VA here in Phoenix is still under a microscope and they’re trying to do whatever they can to stay in alignment with the code of ethics,” Ameen said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration have signed off on the study, but the VA has not. Even if other federal agencies gave their approval, the VA doesn’t have the leeway to follow suit, according to a local VA official.

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