A prominent Morris County physical therapist and entrepreneur is banking his future on the growth of the medical-marijuana testing industry. But rest assured, David Cunic has not gone from fixing joints to smoking them for a living.
“Most people say ‘Oh, if you need a tester, I’ll test a joint for you,’ ” said Cunic, a native of Denville and graduate of the Delbarton School, where he played varsity basketball with future NBA star Troy Murphy. “And I say, ‘No, it’s not that type of testing.’ ”
Cunic and his publicly-traded corporation, Pazoo Inc., are instead taking a scientific approach to testing medical cannabis in laboratories for potentially harmful impurities before the product is sold at legal dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is approved.
“We don’t grow cannabis, we don’t sell cannabis, we test it,” Cunic said during an interview with the Daily Record in his Whippany office on Route 10, which will soon be vacated in favor of a larger headquarters in Parsippany. “We make sure that the end-user is getting the safest product out there.”
While medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2011, stringent regulations have limited its distribution and access to qualified patients. Despite those hurdles, testing is not required in the Garden State.
“When I talk to patients who are taking cannabis here in New Jersey, I say ‘Do you know what you’re putting in your body?’ They go ‘Yeah, it was tested.’ No, it’s not,” Cunic said. “It’s not mandatory here in New Jersey to have your cannabis tested, so you don’t know what you’re putting in your body. It could be doing more harm than good. There could be pesticides, heavy metals, we even find dog feces. Excuse my terminology, but there could be a lot of crap in there.”
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While Cunic is basing his business in Morris County, he is focused more on the development of medical-cannabis testing nationwide, particularly out west where both medical and recreational cannabis products are more readily available.
These are the least likely states to legalize marijuana according to a 24/7 Wall Street study.
“Other states such as Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, if your’e the grower, for every X-amount of pounds that you grow, you send a 3-to-5-gram sample to a testing lab such as ourselves,” Cunic said. “We test it, make sure you pass all the state requirements and you are given almost like a nutritional label that you passed everything.”
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The co-founder of DMC Athletics and Rehabilitation in Randolph, Morristown and Cedar Knolls sold his interest in the company that bears his initials more than two years ago to found Pazoo.com, which launched as an online health and wellness portal for people and their pets.
“The original business model, we provided anywhere from 50 to 100 news articles every day on mental health, physical health and spiritual health,” Cunic said. “There’s a lot of people out there who have great information, services or products, but do not have the money or know-how to get it out to the masses. And that’s what we did.”
But when an angel investor backing Pazoo fielded a pitch from existing cannabis test labs in Nevada looking to expand, he connected them with Cunic, leading to Pazoo’s investment in and eventual complete purchase of Harris Lee LLC and MA & Associates LLC.
“Harris Lee has a contract with our partner, Steep Hill, which is known as the No. 1 testing lab here in the U.S.,” Cunic said. “They are a bunch of scientists and researchers who have licensed out their procedures and their methodology, and we have the first right of refusal to open up a testing lab anywhere in the U.S. except California.”
Focused more on expansion than revenue at the moment, Pazoo stock trades for less than a penny per share on the Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board (stock symbol OTCBB:PZOO). Yet Cunic is confident he is on a path to profit, not only seeing successful growth markets in several states, but increased interest among hedge fund managers and other traditional investment firms now recognizing marijuana testing as a growth sector.
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“In this market, if you would have asked me about cannabis a year ago, it was extremely taboo,” he said. “Now people are starting to open their eyes. Viridian Capitol Advisors (recognized by Barrons as the benchmark for the cannabis industry) just held their first cannabis investor symposium at John Jay College in Manhattan. You now have the Marijuana Business Association based out of New York City. People are starting to open up to the idea that there’s money to be made in this.”
According to Viridian, its cannabis symposium was attended by 400 investors, including “private equity funds, family offices, sector-focused funds and high net-worth individuals.”
Cunic also says the cannabis sector is creating jobs. Pazoo employs more than 100 full-time employees and independent contractors, more than 20 in New Jersey.
“The reason we decided to stay in Morris County is that we are creating jobs,” said Cunic, a member of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and graduate of the chamber’s Leadership Morris program.”When I had my physical-therapy company, in 2010 I won the Alfred Sloan Award for workplace programs and flexibility. When you are signing paychecks, you are impacting people’s lives. I like the fact that I can give people the opportunity to grow.”
As a physical therapist who still tends to patients on a weekly basis, Cunic also sees the direct benefits of medical marijuana. He uses a cannabis oil to topically treat psoriasis on his elbows. The active ingredient in that product is CBD, a chemical with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that does not produce the high caused by another cannabis chemical known as THC.
“I have patients who use it before they come in for therapy, for the pain,” he said. “And it does not have the side effects of the opioid pain medications so many people take. But we advocate testing. I look at it medically and I believe we need a lot more due diligence on this. This is modern-day penicillin. This is every doctor’s dream, to test to see what it can be used for.”
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One more reason to advocate for testing, and invest in the cannabis testing industry: No matter what opinion you have on marijuana, be it for medical or recreational use, Cunic says the cannabis industry is here to stay. More legalization of recreational marijuana would of course expand his market, but the Pazoo business model is based on turning a profit from medical-cannabis testing.
“Twenty-five-plus states with medical cannabis laws, they’re not going to get rid of those,” Cunic said. “It’s not going away. There’s only going to be more. This is a modern-day gold rush. Do I think marijuana will be legal for recreational use? Yes, eventually. Do I think it should be? What I think is that either way, it should be tested.”
Staff Writer William Westhoven: 973-917-9242; wwesthoven@GannettNJ.com.