Hong Kong bans CBD, forcing businesses to shut or revamp
By KANIS LEUNG Associated Press
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong banned CBD as a “dangerous drug” and imposed stiff penalties for its possession on Wednesday, forcing fledgling businesses to shut down or reorganize.
Proponents say that CBD, or cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis plant, can help relieve stress and inflammation without getting its users 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 stores 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 closed while others struggled to reshape their businesses. Consumers tossed what they considered a cure for their ailments into special collection boxes set up across the city.
The new rule reflects a zero-tolerance policy toward dangerous drugs in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous trading hub in southern China, as well as mainland China, where CBD was banned in 2022.
The city maintains several categories of “dangerous drugs”, which 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 possibility of THC contamination during the production process, and the relative ease with which CBD can be converted into THC. .
Customs authorities pledged last week to do more to educate residents to help them understand that CBD is banned in Hong Kong even though it is legal elsewhere.
From Wednesday, possession of CBD can result in up to seven years in prison and a fine of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($128,000). Those found guilty of importing, exporting or producing the substance face life imprisonment and a fine of 5 million Hong Kong dollars ($638,000).
Some users said the ban shows the international financial center is retreating.
“It feels less like an international city,” said Jennifer Lo, owner of CBD Bakery, which started selling CBD-infused cheesecakes, cookies and drinks in 2021.
Its business largely dried up before the ban even took effect, she said.
“The ban rumors affected the way I do business,” she said. “Some platforms just took me offline without telling me. And then it wasn’t as easy to get space in the markets.
To comply with the ban, Lo emptied all of her remaining stock, including dozens of cookies, and said she would have to rename her business.
Some other vendors, including the city’s first CBD cafe which opened in 2020, have closed.
Karena Tsoi, who used CBD skincare products for two years to treat her eczema, said she will have to find an alternative treatment.
“It’s embarrassing,” she said. “The government doesn’t have to regulate like that.”
Most Asian countries have strict drug laws with stiff penalties, with the exception of Thailand, which legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana last year.
Elsewhere, the CBD debate continues.
The US Food and Drug Administration said last week that there is not enough evidence on CBD to confirm it is safe for consumption in food or as a dietary supplement. He called on Congress to create new rules for the growing market.
Marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and edibles, while their legal status is unclear in the United States, where several states have legalized or decriminalized substances that remain federally illegal. .
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