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President’s Message: Interactions with the Cannabis Industry

Dr. Polly Parsons

In October, AnnalsATS published a paper titled: "Effect of Vaporized Cannabis on Exertional Breathlessness and Exercise Endurance in Advanced COPD: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The trial was funded by an investigator-initiated grant from a medical cannabis company. Although this financial relationship was fully disclosed, members have inquired regarding the appropriateness of allowing cannabis industry–supported research to appear in an ATS journal.


This has also raised some bigger questions. Does evidence of health consequences justify treating the cannabis industry like Big Tobacco, or should we wait for proof of misconduct? Should involvement with that industry affect publishing in our journals, presenting at the International Conference, or participating in other ATS activities? Should we differentiate between medical and recreational use and allow for more research and scientific exchange until consensus emerges? As you might expect, our positions on these and related issues are still being developed.


As first steps, the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Committee, Publications Policy Committee, and Tobacco Action Committee have begun reviewing the related actions of other societies, journals, and government agencies. The Ethics and Conflict of Interest Committee will also add a question on the ATS COI Questionnaire that will require those in official ATS roles to disclose any cannabis industry involvement, in order to ensure transparency. 


Our overarching goal remains consistent: to help improve our patients’ lives as they manage respiratory diseases, critical care challenges, and sleep-related disorders. Research regarding the health effects of medicinal and recreational cannabis use is important to the ATS mission, especially as more states and countries legalize its use. With this shifting legal landscape, the cannabis industry will continue to grow and potentially influence public opinion and policies. We do not want to see or contribute to the mistakes made for decades on tobacco use. We appreciate the questions raised by members and assure you we will continue to consider them and keep the ATS membership and other interested parties up to date on our policies.