News Releases

American Osteopathic Association supports review of cannabis classification

Schedule I status limits research, slows opioid response

By AOA Media Team


CHICAGO—August 15, 2018—The American Osteopathic Association supports a review of the classification of cannabis to facilitate advancement in clinical, public health, patient safety and health policy research, according to a resolution approved by the AOA House of Delegates.

The resolution also encourages the National Institutes of Health to support development of clinical research studies. The federal agency funded approximately $140 million in grants for cannabinoid research in fiscal year 20171, significantly less than the allocation for similar research of opiates and benzodiazepines. In fiscal year 2018, the NIH nearly doubled funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain to $1.1 billion2, yet the restrictions on cannabis medical research remain.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to legalize medical cannabis usage when recommended by a physician. Despite this, as a Schedule I controlled substance, cannabis use in clinical trials requires special licensure, approval from the FDA, DEA and NIDA, obstacles other pharmaceuticals do not undergo. 

“As a growing number of states change laws to facilitate the use of medical cannabis, it is important that we have a strong foundation of research that can support evidence-based policies,” said AOA President William S. Mayo, DO. “Given the proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms, reclassification could reduce barriers and increase our understanding of how to safely and effectively use cannabinoid drugs for our patients, many of whom do not respond to other treatments.”

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s publication, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, states there is “conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for treatment for chronic pain in adults, antiemetic in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms.”

The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 defines a Schedule I substance as having no currently accepted medical use in treatment, yet under the FDA Compassionate Investigational new Drug Program, federally regulated medical cannabis is distributed to patients with “serious diseases and health issues for their lifetime.”
“This new policy is a recognition of an evolving landscape and the need to support evidence-based policies that serve the needs of our patients,” said Dr. Mayo.

The resolution passed at the AOA’s Annual House of Delegates Meeting in Chicago in July.

About the AOA
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 137,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools.

To learn more about DOs and the osteopathic philosophy of medicine, visit

About the AOA House of Delegates
The AOA’s House of Delegates, comprised of more than 500 delegates representing osteopathic state medical associations, specialty societies, interns, residents and students from throughout the country, meets annually in July to set organizational policies for the American Osteopathic Association and elect its officers.

Media Contact
Jessica Bardoulas
Director of Media Relations