Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

Report #175, September 2004


For this report, the Commission was asked by the Governor and Legislature to assess some longstanding and contentious issues regarding the state’s regulation of the acupuncture profession. Specifically SB 1951 and AB 1943 requested that the Commission review the scope of practice and educational requirements for acupuncturists, the process for accrediting acupuncture schools and for examining licensees.

During its review, the Commission identified three underlying tensions or conflicts that make it difficult to assess and reconcile the demands of the profession with the role of state government:

  1. The nexus between traditional Oriental and Western medicine is poorly defined.
  2. The profession has sought to elevate its standing through the regulatory process.
  3. Acupuncturists and the Acupuncture Board are concerned that relying on national standards and procedures will hold back the profession in California.

The Commission concluded that the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine should be relied upon to validate the quality of acupuncture training schools. The Commission, however, concluded that the State should continue to use its own examination as the regulatory threshold to practice in California, rather than rely on the national exam. The Commission also identified additional opportunities for the State’s consumer protection agencies, including the Acupuncture Board, to safeguard patients against practices or products that can threaten their safety and the public health – perhaps more importantly, measures to control infections.