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The History of Cannabis Quality Testing in New Jersey

ByTrichome Team

July 17, 2023

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cannabis quality testing has come a long way since before the inception of legal markets. What began with legacy growers using personal high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) machines laid the foundation for the development of some of the established methods of testing that state-licensed labs still use today. Consumers have high-quality growers to thank for being the first to consider testing the various contaminants that can be found in cannabis. And New Jersey cannabis quality testing has changed dramatically for the better, with consumers now able to have a far greater confidence in the products they purchase from the state’s dispensaries.

Cannabis Testing in Legal State Markets

The first legal market “opened” in 1996, when California became the first state to permit legal access to and use of botanical cannabis for medicinal purposes. California voters passed Proposition 215—known as the Compassionate Use Act—to allow legal medical cannabis use, but state regulators did not enforce any type of mandatory testing until July 2018.

Now, states with legal markets all require testing for some contaminants like mold, bacteria, fungus and mycotoxins, as well as potency. But since each state controls its own industry because of federal illegality, standards and testing regulations can differ greatly. For example, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) eventually established maximum allowable thresholds for 66 different pesticides, including zero tolerance for trace amounts of 21 pesticides and low allowable trace amounts of 45 other pesticides. The additional requirements came perhaps in response to a 2017 investigation that reported that 93% of 44 samples collected from 15 cannabis retailers in California had pesticide residues. Meanwhile, Alaska does not require any testing for pesticides. 

In 2012, Colorado was the first state to vote to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis and began enforcement of potency and homogeneity tests for retail cannabis products in 2014. Residual solvents and microbial contaminants were added to the cannabis testing requirements in 2015, and heavy metals and pesticide residues were not required until 2018. 

New Jersey’s Odd Cannabis Quality Testing History

In New Jersey, testing regulations are still in development. Licensed labs like Trichome currently operate under the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s Technical Authority for Medical Cannabis Testing, which demands a robust panel of tests. This was not always the case. 

When medical cannabis was initially legalized and made available at Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC), cannabis testing was handled by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) through their Public Health and Environmental Laboratories (PHEL). The agency only tested the first batch of each cultivar grown by the ATC. Despite the inevitable variations that naturally (or unnaturally) occur in batches, the NJMMP program simply used the results from the initial test moving forward for the producer. There were no updates or retesting unless the producer requested. As a result, it was common for the Certificate of Analysis on file for each cultivar to be years out of date.

There was no external testing performed on concentrates, edibles or lozenges.

The cannabis was tested for metals, cannabinoid potency and some pesticides, but the specific pesticides are not listed on the reportThere was also no microbial testing performed, which is known to cause high failure rates. Recalls only occurred when patients found problems with their cannabis and filed a report. That process took months—meanwhile, similar products sat on shelves and continued to be sold to consumers.

Public Safety and Cannabis Quality Testing

New Jersey’s evolution to private lab testing is a win for the industry and for consumers. With safety now the primary concern, cannabis quality testing is performed in licensed labs designed specifically for testing cannabis. We now operate under far stricter regulatory parameters than in the recent past and offer microbial testing along with tests for specific pesticides and mycotoxins.

Interested in learning more about cannabis testing in New Jersey? Curious about the various cannabis testing services that Trichome Analytical performs? Reach out to us today.