The “funding effect” is an empirically biased effect in which industry-funded research is more likely to produce favourable results and conclusions that benefit industry sponsors. The underlying mechanisms that encourage the funding effect may include publication bias and selective methodology/experimental design. Scientists may adjust their research agendas based on the needs of the industry, given that these industry partnerships offer a wealth of funding. These industry sponsorships may also lead to financial conflict of interests. Despite the positive impact industry sponsorship and corporate research have had on research and innovation, there is still concern surrounding the implications of this relationship on research integrity and policy development.

Written by:
Vaidhehi Veena Sanmugananthan

Edited by:
Georgia Hadjis

Leading up to Canada’s legalization of cannabis, cannabis companies partnered with academics to research the understanding, medical potential, and creation of cannabis compounds to make research claims for the cannabis market. UTCSP scientist Dr. Daniel Buchman, UofT Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing co-PI Dr. Quinn Grundy, and colleagues conducted a meta-research study to 1) identify research with statements of disclosure addressing funding or financial relationships with Canadian cannabis companies, 2) describe the research being conducted with cannabis companies and sponsorship towards the studies, and 3) identify the demographics of the participants included.

From May – August 2021 the authors identified sampling licensed, prominent Canadian cannabis companies, their subsidiaries, and searching each company in the PubMed conflict of interest statement search interface. The authors included 156 articles with disclosures of support or conflicts of interest with Canadian cannabis companies. Overall, the authors found evidence of the involvement of Canadian cannabis companies in the conduct and sponsorship of research. Over half of the articles were not primarily cannabis-focused but listed a cannabis company in the disclosure statement. Of the cannabis-focused articles, topics ranged from: cannabis as a treatment of medical conditions (21%); mediating harm and substance use reduction (14%); product safety (14%); and preclinical animal studies (8%). Demographics were generally under-reported in human empirical studies, most of which were adults (90%) and predominantly white (82%) and male (59%).


The authors suggest that cannabis companies in Canada conduct similar research to other industries (pharmaceuticals, tobacco, alcohol, food) by:

  1. sponsoring research that aids product development and testing;
  2. expanding use indication, and;
  3. financially supporting key-opinion leaders.

The largest proportion of studies focused on the use of cannabis for different conditions (e.g., chronic pain) and harm reduction, indicating that discussions are occurring in this industry surrounding harm reduction through research-related partnerships. The under-reporting and lack of diversity in demographics warrants further research to incorporate an intersectional lens and involve other communities to enhance equity-oriented research in this field. It is suggested that policy makers keep a close eye on and prioritize independence and community engagement in the research process to ensure high quality, independent cannabis research.