Two years ago, cannabidiol was booming in Hong Kong. The compound known as CBD was popping up in cafes, restaurants and stores, with companies eager to enter exciting new markets already established in countries around the world.
That all ended Wednesday when CBD was criminalized in the city and declared a “dangerous drug” on the same level as heroin and fentanyl.
CBD is a chemical found in the hemp and marijuana plants. It is non-psychoactive, so it will not get you high. Instead, CBD is often marketed for everything from relieving pain and inflammation to reducing stress and anxiety.
sparked worldwide popularity In recent years, brands have added it to shampoos, drinks, body oils, gummy bears, and dog treats. It may have been
But last June, a bill banning CBD was presented to Hong Kong lawmakers and went into effect on February 1.
Under the new law, possession and consumption of any amount of CBD is punishable by seven years in prison and a fine of HKD1 million ($127,607). Manufacturing, importing, or exporting CBD carries a life sentence.
Even travelers could face penalties, with the government warning people not to risk “buying these products or bringing them back to Hong Kong.”
The same penalties and conditions apply to cannabis, also known as marijuana.
The ban forced CBD-focused businesses to close, while other brands had to scale back or eliminate their CBD products.
“It’s a shame because it’s certainly a missed opportunity,” said Luke Yardley, founder of Yardley Brothers Craft Brewery, which previously sold four products. Containing CBD – a lager and 3 non-alcoholic drinks. “I think anything is fine as long as you can relax without getting drunk.”
CBD Health Benefits and Risks has long been debatedIn the United States, most CBD products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so people can buy them off-the-shelf.
Some studies show that the compound can relieve pain, can not sleepThe FDA has approved one drug containing CBD to treat severe and rare epilepsy.
But concerns have also been raised, with some experts saying there hasn’t been enough scientific research into how CBD works or its potential effects.
in January, FDA announces CBD products New regulatory pathways will be needed in the United States.
Government concerns revolve around possibilities in Hong Kong, which has strict cannabis laws The presence of the sister compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in CBD products. THC is also found in the cannabis plant and is responsible for the “high”.
In the US and Europe, CBD products can carry up to 0.3% (a trace amount) of THC, but even that is unacceptable in Hong Kong. can be avoided, but most manufacturers blend other compounds for higher potency.
From 2019 to early 2022, Hong Kong authorities launched about 120 “operations” to seize and test CBD products, from restaurants and shops to warehouses. Last year, Security Secretary Tan Pingkun said: He added that over 3,800 products were found to contain THC, but did not provide details about the proportion or percentage of THC in those products.
In a written response to questions posed at the Legislative Council, Tang said the government’s traditionally tough stance on THC should be applied to CBD “to protect public health.” I suggested.
“We have ‘zero tolerance’ to drugs and understand that it is a public concern,” he said. “Therefore, the government plans to control CBD.”
The Anti-Drug Action Committee, a group of representatives from the “fields of social work, education, health care and community service” that advises the government on anti-drug policy, endorsed the ban on CBD and the government’s policy in a statement last November. said to do. The goal of a “drug-free Hong Kong”.
Many businesses began preparing for regulatory changes last year, before the ban took effect.
Yardley Brothers Craft Brewery stopped making CBD beverages late last year in anticipation of the ban, and all remaining products were sold out by December, Yardley said.
he He said CBD drinks are “extremely popular”, reaching about 8% of businesses and offering non-alcoholic options to adults when out with friends. At some bars, patrons “come in for CBD lemonade every weekend,” he said.
Now, “Hong Kong consumers have less choice. It’s not necessarily a step in the right direction,” he said.
Some businesses have been forced to close entirely.
The restaurant, Med Chef, which opened in 2021, once boasted of serving “the first full menu of CBD-infused cocktails, appetizers and entrees” in Hong Kong.of news release The restaurant’s founder emphasized the health and wellness benefits of CBD at launch.
but, early In November 2022, it closed its doors. “We have worked hard in the past to offer CBD in the most acceptable form and integrate it into our food and drink concept,” the restaurant wrote. farewell party on Instagram. “It’s a shame things didn’t go the way we wanted them to. Under the latest policies of those in power, we can’t move forward with everyone in the end.”
Hong Kong’s first CBD cafeFound, also made headlines when it opened in 2020. Infuse coffee and beer, help oil sleep, powder to sprinkle on food, A pet product that relieves joint stiffness.
Closed at the end of September 2022, tell the patreon Their positive feedback indicates that “CBD can help cope with the stresses of everyday life.”
“Sadly, it has become clear that the Hong Kong government intends to adopt new laws banning the sale and possession of CBD, despite the obvious positive ramifications,” it wrote.
Yardley said the government’s concerns about THC were valid, but argued that better regulation could have been implemented, including requiring certification and safety standards for CBD samples.
“To ban it outright would be a very extreme response,” he said.
Breweries will continue to stay open and plan alternative non-alcoholic beverages to fill the gap, but Yardley hopes CBD will return to the menu. I hope,” he said.
This story has been updated to include details of the bill and its introduction.