With no FDA, NJ considers how to ensure safe, legal marijuana
New Jersey’s new Cannabis Regulatory Commission holds it first meeting Monday, adopting a meeting schedule, organization plan and logo and beginning its “work to ensure a fair and equitable” marijuana marketplace for medicinal and recreational use.
State lawmakers, meanwhile, have also turned attention toward making sure it’s safe.
The Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Commission has initiated a series of hearings about how to best conduct independent third-party analyses of cannabis products. What can be done by the state lab or private labs to check contents and packaging of what’s on dispensary shelves?
“We need to remember that unlike the federal government, New Jersey doesn’t have an FDA to do its work. And we have to basically be our own,” said committee chairman Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, D-Somerset.
“I don’t intend to lower the heavy hammer of government down on an industry,” he said. “But I think at a minimum we need to set up a framework that leads everyone to a safe, successful place.”
Bill Ciccone, president of MicroSolv Technology, said testing is important because products can contain dangerous ingredients if manufacturing processes aren’t followed correctly in making things like gummies.
“When the state of New Jersey makes something legal, the public trusts that it’s safe. So, it is really incumbent upon the state to make sure that it is safe,” Ciccone said.
Rutgers University chemistry professor Gene Hall said the state has limited resources and its lab sometimes gets backlogged by weeks or months testing medical marijuana products. There are examples of products being thrown away because they passed their expiration date waiting for tests.
Hall said the state should also consider grants to Rutgers or other colleges to do quality-control checks to make sure the private labs are accurate. He said he plans to do that himself.
“We need these independent laboratories to have certification, certified trusted laboratories who can take off some of the load from the state,” Hall said.
Matt Wolf, chief executive officer of Botannis Labs, said rules governing licensing, certification and testing at private labs should be set up quickly by the state to avoid backlogs.
“Unless you set up a robust, outsourced third-party testing and then check the checkers, that would be us, this is going to be a disaster,” Wolf said.
Raghvendra Sahai, president of Highland Park-based EuTech Scientific Services, said New Jersey, as a hub of the pharmaceutical industry, has plenty of labs that could choose to do the work.
“There are many labs here which are capable of doing it,” Sahai said. “If they are focusing on cannabis or not? Very few of them.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.