Hong Kong has banned CBD as a “dangerous drug. And imposed harsh penalties for its possession on Wednesday. Forcing runaway businesses to close or reorganize.
Proponents say CBD, or cannabidiol.
Derived from the cannabis plant, can help its users relieve stress. And inflammation without getting high, unlike its more famous cousin THC. The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that has long been illegal in Hong Kong. CBD was once legal in the city and cafes. And shops selling CBD-infused products were popular among young people.
But that all changed with the ban, which came into force on Wednesday. But was announced by the government last year. CBD-related businesses have closed, while others have struggled to rebuild their businesses. Consumers dropped what they saw as cures for their ailments into special collection boxes set up around town.
The new rule reflects a zero-tolerance policy toward dangerous drugs in Hong Kong. A semi-autonomous southern Chinese business hub. As well as in mainland China, where CBD was banned in 2022.
The city maintains several categories of “dangerous drugs. That include “hard drugs” such as heroin and cocaine.
In explaining the policy change, the Hong Kong government cited. The difficulty of isolating pure CBD from cannabis. The potential for contamination with THC during the production process. And the relative ease with which CBD can be converted to THC.
Customs authorities last week pledged to do more to educate residents. So they understand that CBD, while legal elsewhere, is banned in Hong Kong.
From Wednesday, CBD possession can lead to up to seven years in jail and a fine of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($128,000). Those found guilty of importing, exporting or manufacturing the substance face life imprisonment. And a fine of up to 5 million Hong Kong dollars.
Some users say the ban shows the international financial center is backing down.
“It looks less like an international city,” said Jennifer Lowe, owner of CBD Bakery. Which began selling CBD-infused cheesecakes, cookies and drinks in 2021.
His business had dried up before the ban took effect, he said.
“The ban rumors have affected how I do business,” he said. “Some platforms took me offline without telling me. And then getting a place in the market was not so easy.”
To follow the ban, Lowe dumped all her remaining stock, including dozens of cookies. And said she would have to rebrand her business.
A few more vendors have closed, including the city’s first CBD cafe, opening in 2020.
Karina Soi, who used CBD skincare products for two years to treat her eczema. Said she had to find an alternative treatment.
“It’s troublesome,” she said. “Government doesn’t have to regulate like this.”
Most Asian countries have strict drug laws with stiff penalties, except for Thailand. Which last year legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana.
Elsewhere, the debate over CBD continues.
The US Food and Drug Administration said last week. That there is not enough evidence about to confirm that it is safe for use in food or as a dietary supplement. It called on Congress to create new rules for the growing market.
Marijuana-derived products have become popular in lotions, tinctures and foods. While their legal status has been unclear in the United States. Where several states have legalized or decriminalized substances that remain illegal.