5 min read

New Jersey Cannabis Testing Regulations (Updated Monthly)

ByTrichome Team

September 10, 2021

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Updated: 10/4/2022

The road to adult-use legalization in New Jersey—with last November’s voter-supported constitutional amendment finally signed into law by Governor Murphy in February 2021, after months of delay—has been a bit tumultuous, to say the least.

And as it happens, formalizing the actual law was one thing—developing effective regulatory frameworks around it was quite another. Among these regulatory frameworks were regulations for cannabis testing, which were released after much debate and effort in late August 2021.

Because things change so rapidly in the cannabis industry in general, and in the brand-new adult-use market of New Jersey specifically, we’ve compiled current cannabis testing regulations for use by cultivators, processors and manufacturers in the high-THC cannabis space in the state of New Jersey. We’ll update this post as regulations change.

Before we address the current cannabis testing regulations, it is important to note that we are currently in the middle of a period when industry professionals can submit feedback and commentary on the state’s proposed permanent regulations to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC). Formally published on August 1, 2022, the proposed permanent regulations include changes to licenses (including cannabis delivery licenses) as well as clarification on some key issues. The open comment period is in effect until September 30, 2022. The NJCRC will then have until February 15, 2023 to respond to public comments, make any changes based on public input, and adopt the permanent regulations.

Proposed permanent regulations include:

  • Cannabis Delivery
    • This would be a significant and meaningful change. Legal home delivery of cannabis products by third-party organizations will improve equity and access to cannabis products and medicine, especially for patients who can’t (or don’t) drive, or who are unable to take time away from responsibilities to restock.
  • Personal Use Testing 
    • Transparency and consumer safety improve when consumers are free to get their cannabis tested for contamination (e.g., mold, mycotoxins) and potency (e.g., THC content) if they suspect labels are incorrect, or they simply want to verify the safety and potency of their products. This move holds manufacturers and processors accountable to THC content and quality controls. It will also help address the issues of potency inflation and lab shopping.
  • Increases in the acceptable variance range for cannabinoid labeling from 5% to 10%
    • A step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. For example, labeling guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sits at 20%, so the standard of 10% is still far too punitive and limiting to do much good for the industry. 

The following are not changed in the proposed permanent regulations and still need to be addressed:

  • Batch size requirements, listed at 100lbs for flower and 35,000 units for products,  should be defined in the Testing Guidance document that is yet to be released. This would allow for updates and flexibility as the industry becomes established in the state without being hard-baked into the administrative code, which is unlikely to change.
  • Hold times for samples need to change. Currently, the regulations propose a 45-day hold time of samples from issuing the report, which is unusual. Generally, lab retention is based from the day of receipt into the lab so samples can be tracked.
  • Introducing the use of QR codes on labels would increase transparency of what each product contains and direct links to Certificates of Analysis.
  • Apply the same guidance in place for personal use testing to (that the testing doesn’t certify a product for sale to consumers) for R&D testing done for licensed operators. This remains unclear and should be clarified.

To make your voice heard and leave a comment, follow the link on the CRC’s page here. Our full thoughts on the proposed regulations can be found here

Key Players and Decision-Makers

First up, some terminology and an overview of key players in the industry. The regulatory body behind these testing rules (and others) in New Jersey is the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC). The CRC guides the cultivation, manufacturing and sale of recreational cannabis in the Garden State.

The CRC engages with a variety of stakeholders as they craft regulations. And as part of their recent publication of the initial rules, they seek to “prioritize applications from minority-, women- and disabled-veteran-owned businesses.” Economically disadvantaged applicants and those from designated Impact Zones will also be prioritized.

Dispensaries in New Jersey are known as Alternative Treatment Centers, or ATCs, at least in the context of medical cannabis. As of now, there are 19 operational stores selling recreational and medical cannabis and nine selling only medical cannabis.

Cannabis Testing Regulations in New Jersey

Overall, New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis testing regulations are pretty straightforward and much in line with what we at Trichome Analytical expected. Primarily, 0.5% of every batch or lot of cannabis has to be tested by a licensed testing laboratory. There are not yet any batch size limits established for smokable cannabis, but that may change as additional testing guidance is released. Establishing limits on batch sizes for smokable cannabis is important for a representative subsample to be taken and analyzed by a third party laboratory. Typically we see 10-15lb batch limits in other state regulations, which means that every 10-15lbs of flower has a representative 20-35g portion tested. Given the inherent inhomogeneity of cannabis, batch size limits are highly recommended.

On the other hand, the adult-use testing regulations did establish a 35,000 unit maximum batch size for manufactured products. These batch size limits are typically larger than smokable cannabis, as manufactured products are controlled through the product formulation process to be homogeneous and evenly dosed throughout. When labs sample manufactured products, samples are taken from various points within the batch to confirm the homogeneity and dosing throughout the production run. Although the adult-use regulations do not go into detail on the homogeneity testing requirements, we believe this will be clarified in the Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s Testing Guidance, once released.

While we’re still waiting for full, complete sample testing guidance, the following tests (among others) will likely be included:

Cannabinoid content
The presence of pests and foreign materials
Microbial analysis for mold and mildew
Heavy metals
Labeling accuracy of 95%-105%

Note: we do hope they change this regulation, as this tight variance may be difficult to meet—we usually see labeling accuracy in the 80%-120% range for cannabis products.

Terpene testing will be required for some product types:

Definitely flower, potentially all inhalable products
No analytes or limits were announced

Cannabis testing regulations also included mandatory stability testing at six and 12 months to ensure product potency and purity as well as to support or debunk the expiration date. To this end, a cannabis business will retain samples from each batch and store them in normal storage conditions (or as noted on the label), and submit those samples at six- and 12-month intervals.

Stability testing will include (at a minimum):

Microbial contamination analysis
Water activity
Heavy metal testing (for vaporized formulations only)

Regarding expiration dates, all water-containing formulations can only exceed a 14 day expiration date if stability testing is completed. All other products are restricted to a six month expiration date, unless the stability testing proves otherwise. Once a product reaches the expiration date, the product must be destroyed and rendered unusable.

It’s important to note that, as it stands in September 2022, we’re still operating off interim guidelines for testing:

ATCs can subcontract with qualified labs to perform batch release and / or QA / QC testing

Interim regulations also mandate routine full panel testing per the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s Technical Authority for Medical Cannabis Testing.

Update as of 1/27/2022: Resolution 2022-7 increases batch size limits from 10lbs to up to 100lbs.

What Do the Regulations Mean for Trichome Analytical?

Due to our numerous accreditations and certifications (like ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation), we already meet or exceed all established protocols for testing, and that’s intentional. We looked ahead and adopted the most rigorous standards possible to ensure alignment with the CRC’s regulations, as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once federal legalization becomes a reality.

We are well-equipped to test high-THC cannabis from businesses within the state of New Jersey as well as low-THC hemp from businesses and operations nationwide. We also bring a unique set of competencies to help organizations adopt Current Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMP) and ironclad Quality Management Systems (QMS).

Check back next month for any updates to testing regulations.