Marijuana

Weeded Out: How the U of A Fired Pot Researcher Sue Sisley After a State Senator Complained

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The Battle of Nasiriyah was one of the most infamous of the Iraq war. It began when Iraqi fighters ambushed a convoy of Army soldiers. Eleven were killed in a vicious firefight, including Army Specialist Lori Piestewa, honored in death by former Governor Janet Napolitano when she ordered the name of Squaw Peak changed to Piestewa Peak.

Jared Martin, 37, a handyman from Mesa, was a member of a U.S. Marines battalion sent to help with the rescue of the ambush survivors. For about three hours, he recounts, an Air Force A-10 Warthog strafed the unit repeatedly.

Rounds exploded all around from the 60-millimeter cannon of the A-10. One of Martin's friends was killed, and then a burst of shrapnel blew into his right side. Six surgeries were required to extract about 20 pieces of metal.

"[The unit] lost 18 Marines in six hours," Martin says grimly.

He went back to Iraq for a second deployment after healing and getting promoted to sergeant. When he finally returned home after four years of active service, he was a different person.

"I don't find much peace," he says. Diagnosed with PTSD in 2008, Martin's tried numerous drugs and techniques to keep his racing mind under control. He has bad dreams. He'd wake up sharply at 3 a.m., alert to sounds in his neighborhood. He had no tolerance for the annoying behavior of others.

"I wanted to choke everybody," he says. "The people I'm around are safer when I'm high." Martin smokes small amounts of marijuana through the day to take off the edge. Sometimes he eats infused cookies or other edibles. The more potent the strain, the better.

He knows it's helping, he says.

He's one of thousands of veterans in Arizona who could benefit from the planned PTSD study. After all, many of them already use marijuana -- in some cases legally, under state law -- so it makes sense to study the effects.

Martin's qualified to use marijuana in Arizona because of chronic pain from his shrapnel wound, but he and others may soon be able to qualify from PTSD, too. Starting in January, because of the July decision by the state, PTSD patients could obtain certification to buy and possess medical marijuana.

The change in the law isn't definite, though, because of a new challenge to PTSD qualification. The Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association, which filed a lawsuit against the DHS on September 1, takes issue with rules Director Humble attached to his decision -- for instance, a patient must have first sought conventional treatment for a condition before obtaining a marijuana recommendation. The lawsuit could result in a court ruling that forces the DHS either to qualify PTSD patients with fewer rules or to withdraw the July decision.

But little question remains that thousands of PTSD patients in Arizona are, or probably will be, doing research on themselves.

Meaning the need for true scientific research on the subject is more urgent than ever.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.