Tag Archives: federal government

Steve Goldner

Federal Marijuana Policy: A Q&A with Stephen Goldner

By Aaron G. Biros
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Steve Goldner

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: 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.

Top 3 Things to Know about President Obama’s FY 2016 Food Safety Budget Proposal

By Miranda Peguese
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Knowing the government’s increased focus on food safety means companies must continually be audit ready with program sustainability as a focus for management and employees alike. Commitment to food safety and a sound preparation plan is key for facilities as they navigate through the increasing food safety regulatory oversight.

Food safety funding has been a major focal point for the FY 2016 budget proposed by President Obama. Primarily due in support of the fact that all major Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules are scheduled to take effect by the end of FY 2016, the increased focus will impact each of the agencies governing food safety within the US and all entities which fall under their jurisdiction.

Here are three things to know about the proposed food safety funding allocation for FY 2016:

1. There will be a sizeable increase in the allocation of food safety funding.

President Obama’s $3.99 trillion FY 2016 budget proposal allocates $1.6 billion for food safety, a significant increase in food safety funding over previous years. This would include increases of $301 million for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support new measures under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), resulting in a $109 million increase over the previous year as well as an additional $2.1 million increase to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over FY 2015’s $48 million allocation going towards food safety.

USDA budget requests would decrease slightly for FY 2016, requesting $1.012 billion vs. $1.016 billion for the previous year’s budget as a result of program related cost savings and correlated efficiencies and expects that a portion of the $2.9 billion for agricultural research and extension activities would support additional food safety requirements set forth by FSMA.

2. The proposed increase in food safety funds would include a prioritized food safety spending plan.

The increases to the allocated funding for food safety do not come without guidance. The funding increase includes a detailed plan for spending to include the following allocation:

  • $32 million for Nation Integrated Food Safety System
  • $25.5 million for New Import Safety Systems
  • $25 million for Inspection Modernization Training
  • $11.5 million for Industry Education and Technical Assistance
  • $4.5 million for Risk Analytics and Evaluation
  • $4 million for Technical Staffing and Guidance Development

The top three funding allocations noted are for integration, import, and inspection. These allotments directly reflect the directives set forth in FSMA

3. The plan also includes a proposed single food safety regulatory entity.

In addition to the increase in funding, the new plan outlined by President Obama also asks for Congress to combine several programs overseeing US food safety into a single agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Advocates of the plan state that the combination would provide “focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability”, citing the current food safety system as being fragmented and outdated. Currently, a total of 12 agencies enforce 30 different laws. An alternate proposal has also been put forth by two members of congress which would suggest the formation of a new food safety agency independent of HHS.

How does this affect your facility? Knowing the government’s increased focus on food safety means companies must continually be audit ready with program sustainability as a focus for management and employees alike. Commitment to food safety and a sound preparation plan is key for facilities as they navigate through the increasing food safety regulatory oversight.

To learn more about the food safety allocations within the proposed FY 2016 budget, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm432576.htm and http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=BUDGET.

U.S. Needs to Rework its “Byzantine Food Safety System”

If anything is more complicated than our food, it’s our government’s system for checking its safety, describes an LA Times editorial, supporting the recent proposal to create a single, unified Food Safety Administration.

The job of keeping our food wholesome has become more difficult as food itself has become more complicated, as more processed foods include ingredients from many sources, making it hard to trace the origin of pathogens. For instance, a package of ground beef today is no longer put together by a butcher pushing a single hunk of meat through a grinder, but includes trimmings from many cattle and multiple slaughterhouses. Thus, even a small quantity of meat contaminated with E. coli has the potential to taint tremendous amounts of hamburger meat sent out across the country, describes an editorial in the LA Times.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food poisoning sickens more than 80 million people a year in this country, killing 5,000, sending 325,000 to the hospital and, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Food Protection, costing $14 billion — which doesn’t take into account the cost of lawsuits and recalls.

The LA Times article criticizes the “byzantine system” for ensuring food safety: “At least 15 agencies are involved, but sorting out the responsibilities of just the two main ones — the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture — is hard enough,” it describes, citing examples of frozen pizza (where the cheese is inspected by the USDA, while other ingredients and toppings by FDA), and eggs (USDA while responsible for eggs out of the shell — and for grading eggs in the shell for shape and uniformity, don’t fully take into account conditions of the egg product facilities).

Recently, based on recommendations, President Obama has proposed a unified Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services, and the article describes this as a smarter, more efficient and effective way to protect American consumers.