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Miami suspends Hamilton campus professors over hallucinogenic-producing tree

Miami University has suspended two professors at the Hamilton regional campus over an incident regarding a rare Iboga tree, the bark of which can be used to produce a psychedelic drug.

The Iboga tree is native to the Congo Basin in Africa and is especially prolific in the country of Gabon, where ibogaine -- the drug the tree produces -- is used in the practice of the Bwiti religion.

When Ryan Young, an employee of the university's alumni relations office, visited the conservatory, a student employee told him that they had taken an Iboga seedling home and planned to consume ibogaine. After the conservation, Young notified the Miami University Police Department (MUPD), who contacted the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), according to the MUPD report.

The report stated that John Cinnamon, a professor of anthropology, brought the Igoba seeds back from a trip to Gabon in 2004. He did not declare the seeds to U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon his return, but gave them to the conservatory to grow a tree when it opened in 2005 for research purposes. The tree was unlabeled, and the student employee speculated that this was purposeful, in order to prevent the tree from garnering too much attention.

After MUPD's investigation, university provost Phyllis Callahan suspended Cinnamon and Daniel Gladish, a professor of biology and director of the Hamilton campus conservatory, where the Iboga tree was housed, for violating the university's drug-free workplace policy.

Gladish plans to appeal the suspension in the fall. Cinnamon will take up his case when he returns from medical leave, according to a letter written by the president of Miami's chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Cathy Wagner.

The AAUP letter also stated that Brain Grubb, the manager of the conservatory, has resigned "under pressure of termination."

AAUP has begun a petition objecting to the terminations of employment for the two professors and Grubb.

glynnee@miamioh.edu

An earlier version of this article mistakenly characterized the AAUP petition as objecting to the professors' suspensions. The article has been edited to reflect that the petition objects to the termination of the professors' employment.

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