Among the benefits of legalization is that consumers can buy cannabis they know is free of toxins and not dangerously potent. This need for government-approved “safe” pot has sparked a rise in cannabis testing labs.
Including Cannalytics Research Center in Lafayette, NJ. Founded by entrepreneur Scott Begraft, the company is a part of the legal cannabis industry that’s on the horizon for the Garden State. Begraft’s laboratory focuses on testing, regulation and compliance.
We recently spoke with him about this important component of the industry, as well as issues affecting legal cannabis.
Cannabis Regulator: What do you test for?
Scott Begraft: The number one thing we test for is potency. How much THC is in a product, etc. Then there’s a number of chemicals we test for. Pesticides, metals, residual solvents, moisture, mold, micro toxins. Of course, in New Jersey producers have to go with indoor growth operations. But even so, you never know where growers have been earlier that day. They may have been outside somewhere where they brushed up against plants with pesticides and then walking through the grow facility later they contaminate the plants.
CR: What’s the space for independent labs like yours in the legal cannabis industry?
SB: Right now, New Jersey does their testing in-house. But that’s just for their existing medicinal market. And they still do not have enough labs to test the amount of cannabis that’s being produced instate right now, never mind the amount they’ll need to test in a few years after legalization passes. That’s why it’ll be better to use separate labs like ours.
CR: What are your thoughts on the legal cannabis industry adopting the three-tier system we see in alcohol?
SB: Right now in New Jersey you can have a cultivator, producer and dispensary all in one spot. And that’s just with the limited medicinal industry here. I guess it all depends. Right now in New Jersey we have one company, Terra Tech, buying up all the greenhouses it can. That will be a mass producer. But should they be able to do-all-in-one? Have a total monopoly? No, probably not. I think there should be some sort of regulations that allows room for smaller businesses in the industry.
CR: Opponents of legal cannabis often suggest that it will greatly increase the amount of pot that ends up in the hands of underage consumers. Is this a fear of yours?
SB: I don’t agree with that argument. Recently there was a bomb scare at a local school near here. The police made all the kids get out and sent the bomb-sniffing dogs in. They didn’t find any bombs, but the dogs did find pot, heroine and cocaine among the belongings of 30 different kids. So should I believe that legalization would make cannabis more accessible to kids? No, because it’s there now.
Look, I live within the mountains of New Jersey and even around here the kids can get their hands on it within minutes. I don’t think legalization will make that any easier. The black market is already so huge.
CR: Your company also works on research into the opioid crisis. Do you believe that cannabis can help combat the epidemic of opioids in America?
SB: I don’t know for sure, but what I believe is that THC in high doses could help wean recovering addicts off of methadone and suboxone. Right now, doctors are afraid to take people off of those drugs because of the withdrawal. I believe you can dose someone properly with THC to help them fight against withdrawal symptoms and get past the seven-to-ten days of dope withdrawal.
The problem is that we don’t have a lot of research into this potential treatment because the government’s blocking so much cannabis research. And, of course, there’s also the influence of Big Pharma.
CB: What’s your outlook for cannabis legislation on the federal level?
SB: Well, when’s the last time you saw the federal government admit it was wrong? Sessions and Trump are anti-cannabis, and then all of a sudden they’re going to say they’re wrong? I don’t think so.
At the same time, though, who really knows with Trump. He could get sick of hearing all this crap about cannabis, fire Sessions and then legalize cannabis. We could see legal cannabis in ten years or in ten minutes. Our government is so unpredictable right now. We live in interesting times.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Is Vermont’s Law the Future of Cannabis?