Ahead of the launch of our newest publication, CannabisIndustryJournal.com, I interviewed Stephen Goldner, President of Regulatory Affairs Associates, regarding the possibility of federal oversight in the cannabis industry, namely direct FDA involvement via regulations.
With experience as a forensic toxicologist and attorney, Stephen Goldner has worked over 35 years as a regulatory professional in the healthcare space. He has contributed to the approval of 230 drugs and medical devices serving as an FDA advisor. Steve is credited with the development of the liquid dose form of methadone and various screening tests for drug abuse.
We discussed the current regulatory frameworks in place for legal marijuana in the United States and found that there are some gaps in understanding when it comes to regulating the plant. Here is a snapshot of our conversation discussing federal involvement in the cannabis industry:
Food Safety Tech: Are state governments and marijuana businesses working jointly to handle the regulatory framework succeeding? Can you see, in the handful of states that have already legalized marijuana, a need for FDA regulatory guidance?
Steve Goldner: To many people’s surprise, the states that have legalized marijuana are doing very well setting up a regulatory framework. Plus, the legitimate operations really want to succeed in business and provide safe and effective recreational and drug products. I’m surprised to hear myself say it, but FDA might be best served if it stayed out of this issue for a while.
FST: What are some reasons why the FDA might want to get involved in the cannabis industry?
Steve: Certainly if there were reports of injuries, but so far the marijuana products seem to be much less hazardous than other common recreational substances like beer and wine. But FDA also gets involved when there are outrageous claims that products cure diseases like cancer. I expect FDA will act against cannabis distributors who make those claims, even if they only distribute their marijuana within one state.
FST: What are some reasons why the FDA might want to let this social experiment run a little longer?
Steve: Thousands of people have gone to jail or otherwise had their life ruined because of small amounts of this product being used or being sold. If it turns out, as the data appears to show, that marijuana is not a ‘gateway drug’ to other drugs, and it’s use is fairly harmless, then FDA stepping in will probably just send most of the users and growers into the black market and then nothing will have been gained.
FST: What actions might you suggest the FDA take in the near future as more states continue to legalize marijuana?
Steve: Great question! FDA is excellent at monitoring data, along with the CDC. If FDA sees a real health hazard problem, it can convene a panel of experts to offer solutions. And then monitor the situation to see if growers and producers of marijuana edibles can adopt those solutions into their business practices.
Ahead of a number of state reforms and initiatives to legalize the recreational use and sale of the plant in 2016, The New York Times published an op-ed by The Editorial Board in favor of removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. While Goldner, along with many others, believe that states are making great strides with regulatory measures, The New York Times believes “State legalization efforts are not uniformly well thought out, which is another reason for Congress and the president to act.”
With the 2016 elections fast approaching, we hope to see major changes coming soon in the federal government’s position on marijuana.
We want to hear your thoughts! Do you think the federal government should step up their involvement? What actions or inactions would you like to see the federal government take? Do you think the FDA should chime in? Post your questions or thoughts in the comments section below.