Professors Could Lose Jobs for Housing Rare, Psychedelic Plant
Professors Could Lose Jobs for Housing Rare, Psychedelic Plant

Professors Could Lose Jobs for Housing Rare, Psychedelic Plant

Miami University’s plant conservatory was growing seedlings of iboga, which contains an illegal, psychoactive substance.

Jul 3, 2019
Kerry Grens

ABOVE: Tabernanthe iboga Baill.
WIKIMEDIA, JI-ELLE

The manager of the plant conservatory at Miami University in Ohio is out of a job, while its director, a biology professor, and an anthropology professor are set to be fired after authorities learned that the facility was growing several seedlings of a psychedelic plant called iboga, Inside Higher Ed reports. There is no indication that the researchers intended to cultivate the plant’s illegal, psychoactive substance, but a student who picked up several leftover seedlings reportedly wanted to “get high.”

Once the university learned of the student’s intention to grow the plant for illicit drug use, it alerted authorities and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) confiscated the plant in November, but did not press charges against conservatory staff. A spokesperson for the agency tells Inside Higher Ed that research on narcotics classified as schedule 1 must be approved by DEA, but would not comment on this case.

The researchers insist the plant was kept for research, not recreation. “It was purely scientific inquiry. We’re a biology department for God’s sake,” Brian Grubb, the conservatory’s manager who says he was forced to resign, tells Inside Higher Ed.

The news outlet reports that the university wrote to Daniel Gladish, the conservatory’s director, informing him that he had violated federal law by possessing a schedule 1 narcotic and broke university rules for keeping a drug-free workplace and reporting colleagues’ illegal activity. Anthropology professor John Cinnamon, who had brought the plant’s seeds to the conservatory, was likewise told he had broken the law. Both professors were told they would be fired.

Colleagues have come to their defense, and the local American Association of University Professors chapter has launched a petition to reverse the scholars’ termination.

“These are not two professors smoking dope in the back,” Daniel Hall, a professor of political science at Miami, tells Inside Higher Ed. “They care deeply about the institution and are committed to students and the community. . . . What’s happened just sickens me.” Hall adds that the university’s actions could stifle research or discourage scientists from coming to study there.