Dr. Sue Sisley is leading the next generation of cannabis medical science, taking the fight directly to the FDA and DEA to help cut through the red tape that hinders research.
In order for a drug to get FDA approval, the data on said drug’s effects must be reviewed by the Center for Drug Evaluation & Research (CDER) and the drug must be determined to provide benefits that outweigh its known and potential risks. Now, what if research is impeded by a variety of governmental red tape? That is exactly the case with cannabis. And this is where Dr. Sue Sisley comes in. Dr. Sisley, a trailblazer in cannabis research, has been working for 14 years to push cannabis flower through the FDA drug development process – and has been hindered nearly every step of the way.
As one of the few scientists in the country holding a DEA Schedule 1 researcher license, Dr. Sisley has an intimate knowledge of not only cannabis science, but the steps it takes to conduct this kind of research. In this exclusive interview, Dr. Sisley discusses how she is helping cannabis research progress, how she’s motivating young scientists to embrace this field, and what the industry can do to help.
Cannabis & Tech Today: How did you get involved in cannabis research?
Dr. Sue Sisley: I always end up crediting military veterans because they shared their personal experiences with cannabis for years in my medical practice, and I was super skeptical. My thinking was so blocked at that time because I had been trained in a really conservative medical environment where you don’t distribute anything as a medicine unless it’s been put through the FDA drug development process. I had only been taught that cannabis was dangerous, addictive, and should be avoided.
So, it was tough for me to embrace the idea that this plant was a medicine and these veterans just never gave up on me. They kept coming back; they’d bring in family, friends who would corroborate their story, and I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. Over time, I realized there has to be something here…
I don’t know if you’re aware, but there has not been a new treatment for PTSD approved in 18 years. So since Paxil and Zoloft initially got approved, nothing else since then. And so, all these other meds that we use to treat PTSD are all just being used off label and they’re mostly very disappointing.
But I was interested in cannabis not just for PTSD, but also for treating pain, and as a substitute for opioids and other addictive meds. But again, it took me a long time to get motivated enough to actually start doing clinical trials.
Published: April 07, 2020