3 min read

Understanding Stability Testing for New Jersey Cannabis Businesses

ByTrichome Team

June 25, 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As New Jersey’s adult-use regulatory program gains its footing and businesses further establish themselves, we expect more changes to come down the pike in the interest of product quality and consumer safety. 

One such regulation is mandatory cannabis stability testing—that is, testing flower, concentrates, and infused products at six- and 12-month intervals to assess their shelf life and suitability for consumption. 

By testing the same product batch at different time intervals, manufacturers are able to monitor cannabinoid degradation resulting in loss of potency and potential contaminants that may increase over time, such as microbes. This information is then used to determine the product’s shelf life and “best by” dates.

Organizations that do not engage in testing will see their products fall into automatic expiration dates of either 14 days or six months, depending on product formulation. This could result in a significant amount of loss of perfectly safe, compliant products being pulled from shelves for disposal—bad news for any nascent business’s bottom line. 

Understanding the Stability Testing Process 

Cultivators, processors and manufacturers should hold back a representative sample from each and every saleable batch of flower, concentrates, vapes, ingestibles like tinctures or other products. The representative sample, according to NJAC 17:30, must be twice the amount that is taken for the compliance test, for example, 1.0% of the parent batch for usable cannabis flower. The stability samples should be clearly labeled and stored as they would be out in the world—not in a freezer or vacuum-sealed container—so they accurately represent the product’s natural shelf lifecycle. They should also be in the same type of container “in which the usable cannabis or cannabis product is distributed” and should remain undisturbed for the entire interval between storage and stability testing. 

At six- and 12-month intervals, the business should send a retention sample representative of the batch or lot to a reputable, third-party cannabis testing lab

For flower, that looks like about 1.5% of the batch total set aside for testing across its lifecycle from harvest to final stability test—the same amount that is taken for compliance testing is also required for stability testing at the stated six- and 12-month intervals. 

For retention samples, the lab will not run a full panel as it does in the initial compliance testing process. Rather, testing for cannabinoid content, microbial contamination and water activity are mandated, though organizations can also opt in for further quality testing, such as terpenes, to ensure product integrity. For vaporizers and vape cartridges, heavy metal testing is also required as part of stability testing. Though it’s not mandatory, we also recommend testing for nickel and copper in vapes to ensure product purity. 

Water activity results indicate two things: 1) whether or not the product or its package environment would allow microbes to proliferate; and 2) that the packaging is maintaining an adequate level of water activity to ensure quality (that gummies won’t dry out, for example). 

Aside from the obvious, microbial contamination results for cannabis can be especially helpful for organizations that have used UV, ozone or other surface-level remediation techniques to destroy contaminants. If the contamination were more than surface-level deep, that evidence will be clear after stability testing. 

Heavy metal testing of vape cartridges helps to assess whether heavy metals are leaching into the oil over time. 

All of these results can help cannabis businesses dial in their formulations, troubleshoot their packaging and ensure product safety and quality. 

Reporting of Cannabis Stability Testing Results 

Stability testing results are required to be reported to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. If results indicate a decline in potency or purity, the manufacturer must revise its standard operating procedures, labeling and / or packaging based on the results. 

For those reasons and many others, it’s important for all cannabis businesses to have ironclad SOPs and quality controls throughout the manufacturing process. While it’s not required by the CRC, we recommend that businesses engage in testing throughout the production cycle, and for raw ingredients that go into their manufactured product to flag sources of  contamination before it becomes an issue—thus potentially avoiding a costly recall. 

These regulations may change slightly as time goes on, but we don’t anticipate a significant departure from their current iteration. For questions about stability, compliance or contamination testing, please reach out.