Thursday, September 3, 2015

Interview: Joseph Payack, former process chemist and current cannabis chemistry consultant

I recently spoke with Joseph Payack. Readers may know him from his articles in Organic Process Research and Development when he was working at Merck. He is now the secretary of the nascent Cannabis Chemistry Committee, part of the Division of Chemical Health and Safety of the ACS. He graciously spoke with me over the phone while he was at the fall ACS conference in Boston last month.

He has recently been working in the medical cannabis field, mostly as an independent consultant. His assessment is that the industry is "desperate for analytical talent."

He strongly believes that experienced chemists would find themselves employed quickly as consultants in almost all areas where the medicinal cannabis industry and chemistry intersect: extractions, analytical chemistry, formulations and safety/EH&S. Synthetic chemists who had experience at the liter scale and above would be able to find themselves work as consultants relatively quickly, he believes. He also feels that there is room for new graduates in chemistry in the cannabis industry, especially for those who have proven themselves to have GC/HPLC skills (and the ability to maintain and fix them.)

He acknowledges that working in the cannabis chemical industry is indeed "taking a risk" with one's career. It is towards that end that he has joined the Cannabis Chemistry Committee, in order to help make the field a little more legitimate and lay the groundwork for the future of this nascent field. 


  1. i would be a little interested in this because the places with cannabis industry now are places I wouldn't mind living - CO, WA, CA. At the same time I'm a little young to want to enter an industry I might not be able to leave.

    1. I think that, by the time you might want to leave, attitudes will have changed a bit? That would be the hope, but this is a "I bet your life" sort of guess.

    2. Yeah well right now I'm going to stick with posting anonymously on this. Who knows in 12-18 months when I'm looking for something after the postdoc that's located in CO, it might start to look real good. Social acceptance seems to be moving quickly on this, Chris Christie's position on enforcement notwithstanding. I would feel much better if they went ahead and legalized at the federal level though. A lot of progress could be undone depending on who is in the white house come 2017.

    3. This wanders into the "bold prediction" realm, but something tells me that even if the Feb. 2017 occupant is a member of the GOP, nothing will move backwards. A lot of things could be frozen in place, though.

      It's neither here nor there.

      The long and the short of it, from a #chemjobs perspective, is that, if you're willing to take the risk, the jobs are available. I have heard some good stories, I have heard a couple horror stories as well. At the moment, it's a Wild West town, which means that you shouldn't be surprised when Doc Holliday and Preacher Collins come busting out of the saloon, firing at each other. Before long, though, I suspect that this little town will grow up.

  2. Not sure if this qualifies as semi-related, but I'd be curious to know the general chemistry community's take on e-cigarette flavouring/"juice"... I haven't done any research, but I have a feeling the bigger flavour/fragrance firms are hesitant to serve that market.