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New Jersey’s Adult-Use Cannabis Craze is Here. Learn Why the Right Testing Partner Matters

ByTrichome Team

July 20, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has finally begun issuing testing lab licenses, marking a major milestone in the state’s progress toward a fully open, fully functional legal adult-use market. In fact, Trichome Analytical received the first license.

But as cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and processors navigate these new waters, it’s quickly becoming clear how essential it is to have a good testing partner from regulatory, consumer safety and bottom-line perspectives. 

Here’s a closer look at how cannabis testing impacts business operations, and why organizations should consider quality assurance—not just compliance—in their product development and business growth plans. 

A New Chapter in New Jersey’s Adult-Use Market

Similar to other states, the New Jersey recreational market has taken a while to get off the ground. The state legalized medical cannabis in 2010, and adult-use cannabis followed suit after voters approved the Marijuana Legalization Amendment in 2020. The nearly two years that have elapsed since legalization, though, have been characterized by delays and significant back-and-forth in regulation development before limited adult-use sales began in April 2022 through existing medical cannabis Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs). 

The moment for New Jersey adult-use market expansion has finally arrived and the CRC is issuing annual licenses (or transitioning conditional licenses to annual) and establishing testing regulations for businesses operating in New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis space. 

The CRC’s Successes and Areas of Opportunity

From a testing perspective, the CRC’s efforts to effectively regulate the industry have been a mixed bag of success and areas of needed improvement. For example, mandating third-party testing for adult-use products—but not medical—doesn’t exactly make sense on paper. After all, patients consuming cannabis for medical reasons are at higher risk of adverse health effects if issues of contamination exist. However, it gives current medical cannabis operators more incentive to start testing now, otherwise they’ll miss out on the larger market share. Another success: cannabis product stability testing. This crucial regulation will help operators develop safe, effective new products and trace any issues with product contamination before they become widespread or persistent. And, unlike many other states, New Jersey has also included stability testing for heavy metals potentially leaching in vapes—a serious win for consumer safety. 

But, as mentioned, there are some regulatory areas the CRC has the opportunity to revisit and revise. For example, in the NJAC 17:30 Personal Use Cannabis Rules, there are no maximum batch sizes for testing flower, which is known to be inhomogeneous by nature and could contain untested, therefore undetected pockets of contamination that could ruin whole batches or result in harm to consumers. 

There are, however, maximum batch sizes of 35,000 units for manufactured products with a per-package total of 100mg THC. That unit number may seem like a lot, but it isn’t—it represents only 3,500 packs of 10mg lozenges, or 1,750 packs of 5mg lozenges. When you think about similar consumer goods manufactured at scale, that’s a small  production run. And, overall, manufactured products will be much more consistent between products compared with flower. Basically, they got it backwards from a testing perspective

And while mandating stability testing is overall a win for consumer safety and good for businesses to ensure the quality of their products, the CRC requires these samples for stability testing to be drawn pre-packaging from the same batch as compliance tests, then submitted for lab testing at six- and 12-month intervals. Stability of product, though, is partially dependent on a product’s packaging—so sampling for stability testing prior to packaging really doesn’t make much sense. If there are issues with packaging that result in product degradation or contamination, that won’t be made clear by this approach. 

For manufactured products, NJAC 17:30 dictates the number of sample increments required based on batch size. Depending on the product, this could lead to an unnecessarily large sample size to be taken by the laboratory for a representative sample. For further clarification: According to the rules, if I were to manufacture 10,500 infused lozenges, I would need to submit 125 lozenges for the first compliance test, 125 for the six-month stability test, and 125 for the 12-month test. This is more than 3.5% of the entire batch. Compared to sampling protocols from other industries, this is overkill.

Lastly, the CRC has not announced final testing analytes and limits, which makes it difficult for organizations to plan for testing and other protocols. 

Changes on the Horizon

As the New Jersey adult-use market hits its stride and matures, more product types will continue to be brought into the market. Higher-potency products such as shatter and wax concentrates are already launching. As more operators bring on these product types, pricing will lower as well.

Once concentrates are more widely produced and available, different types of ingestible items are likely to follow. Currently, edibles beyond lozenges are not allowed without a waiver. However, the regulations give the CRC the ability to approve “any other form authorized by the Commission, including a form authorized in accordance with the Commission’s power to waive requirements pursuant to N.J.A.C. 17:30-3.13.” So, there’s an opportunity for organizations to submit new products to the CRC—it’s just important they do their due diligence in this process.  

How Quality Programs and Testing Propel Business Growth

State-mandated compliance tests are not replacements for effective quality-assurance programs. Rather, they’re simply final checks before products are released to the public—they don’t control the quality of the actual product being manufactured or grown. An effective quality program will not only monitor the cannabis product itself throughout the cultivation and manufacturing processes, but will also monitor the environment, the equipment and the personnel involved at every step along the way. 

Third-party testing, as well as internal testing at various stages, can assist quality assurance programs by providing this data. An effective quality program will also ensure traceability, so that when an issue does occur, the cause can be narrowed down and eliminated more easily.

Trichome Analytical supports cannabis product innovation—learn more about our testing services for New Jersey, New York and beyond.