The California Acupuncture Board, which regulates the state's approximately 11,000 acupuncturists, has a long and messy history. Ben Kavoussi recounted that history in two informative posts (
1988: The long-time chairman of the Board (then called the Acupuncture Committee) was caught selling answers to the licensing exam for $10,000 - $20,000 a pop, netting him a take of half a million dollars or more. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but only a few of his customers were caught. This means that some acupuncturists are almost certainly still practicing who are dishonest enough to buy their way into licensing and who may not have been able to pass the exam on their own.
2002: A special commission appointed to look into long-standing problems with the Board determined that the Board had
too frequently acted as a venue for promoting rather than regulating the profession [resulting in] missed opportunities to protect the public by providing accurate and complete information about the therapies that licensees can provide.
The commission also found the Board had not "adequately incorporated emerging scientific evidence into board policies, regulations and public communications."
2005: Another review of the Board found little improvement, finding that the Board had misread its governing statutes regarding scope of practice and potentially endangered the public by failing to promulgate, or even discuss, regulations concerning sterilization of needles.
2006-2010: Numerous arrests for prostitution and other crimes are made at California acupuncture clinics, reflecting poor oversight of the practice. One district attorney found a clinic using plastic wrap for protection instead of condoms. Crime at acpuncture clinics became such a problem in some cities that local governments refused to issue business licenses to new clinics.
2012: A Senate Committee, at a hearing on the subject, let the Board know it was not happy with the Board's failure to deal with ongoing problems. One issue that displeased the Committee was the Board's approving continuing education courses "grossly out of compliance with its own regulations." Cited were courses on numerology, vitalism, astrology, "the Capacity and Function of Love," cosmology, magic, sound healing with tuning forks, Reiki, and "Four Energy Healing Theories." Another problem was the Board's glacial pace in disciplinary actions, which took an average of 2 1/2 years from complaint to resolution.
2012: A state investigator reported to the Board that one licensing test prep firm was selling questions that actually appeared on the Board's licensing exam. The investigator believed the firm was hiring test takers to memorize questions and then report them to the firm. As a result, the state office which administered the exam dropped the compromised questions from the exam results. That caused the pass rate to drop to 38.49%, an historic low for an exam that already had a low pass rate.
Now the California Legislature is
One of the Board's main problems was the time and money (including expensive site visits) it uses up approving acupuncture schools deemed sufficient for education and training of licensure applicants. All other states licensing acupuncturists require graduation from a school approved by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). California's Board has its own approval requirements, which, critics feel, undercuts it ability to attend to consumer protection issues due to the expense and time this task absorbs. The bill would change that by permitting ACAOM-approved school grads to apply for state licensing.
What won't change is California's composing and administering its own troubled licensing exam. Other states allow applicants to take a national exam.
Of course, the main problem with acupuncture licensing is hiding in plain sight from the California Legislature. In fact, the Legislature itself created the problem. It should never have licensed the pseudomedicine that is acupuncture (and "oriental medicine") in the first place. All the amended legislation, improved regulation, and so forth won't do a bit of good for the California consumer who is daily duped into thinking acupuncture is a safe and effective "alternative" or "complement" to "conventional" medicine. It is ironic that the Legislature was troubled by continuing education courses in magic when acupuncture itself is no more than magic. And why was anyone surprised that the Board had not incorporated "scientific evidence" into its regulations? It is impossible to incorporate science into a decidedly unscientific field.. It is like complaining that astrologers haven't incorporated the latest astrophysics research into their predictions. You can legalize fantasy, but you can't make it reality.