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Colo. awards $2M toward research on pot's potential for PTSD

A small suitcase with Mason jars of medical marijuana at the Laguna Woods, Calif., retirement community's medical marijuana collective.

DON BARTLETTI, LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

By CHARLIE BRENNAN | Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo. (TNS) | Published: December 18, 2014

The Colorado Board of Health on Wednesday approved eight grant proposals totaling just over $7.6 million for studies relating to medical marijuana, including one focused on its effects in treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Funding of the proposals, which had been recommended by the state's Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, represents the largest-ever state funded effort to study the potential medical benefits of cannabis.

Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist who recently lost her position as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona, had visited Boulder on Tuesday as part of a crash-course in the evolution of legal marijuana in the state.

Sisley, whose $2 million research grant is nearly twice as large as any of the other seven grants funded Wednesday, was present for the state health board's vote.

"We're thrilled, we're thrilled," Sisley said. "We were there from start to finish, and it was fascinating."

During her stop in Boulder on Tuesday, Sisley described her planned study, on which the primary investigator is Marcel Bonn-Miller from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, and is also supported by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, Calif.

"This is a triple-blind randomized control trial, where we're looking at 80 veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD, which means they have to have failed at least drug therapy or psychotherapy, or both," Sisley said.

In this year's session, the state Legislature established the Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, authorizing $10 million from reserves in the medical marijuana program cash fund for "objective scientific research regarding the efficacy of marijuana and its component parts as part of medical treatment."

Sisley's next hurdle is obtaining the "cannabidiol-rich" strains of marijuana she needs for her study to proceed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse contracts exclusively with the University of Mississippi to produce cannabis approved by the federal government for research — and she said that the strains she needs for her work simply aren't currently available from that source.

She's frustrated that federal regulations won't allow her to simply use the type of marijuana she has seen during a tour of selected grows in the Boulder-Denver area this week.

"I've met expert growers who are absolutely growing some of the most stunning marijuana with some gorgeous flowering plant material that would probably really benefit these veterans," she said.

Praising Colorado's readiness to explore the broader potential of marijuana in a variety of ways, Sisley said, "All eyes are on Colorado."

©2014 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)

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