Hong Kong Bans CBD, Forcing Businesses to Close or Renovate

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong banned CBD as a “dangerous drug” and imposed stiff penalties for its possession Wednesday, forcing start-up businesses to close or renovate. Supporters say that CBD, or cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis plant, can help relieve stress and inflammation without getting users high, unlike its more famous cousin, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that for it has long been illegal in Hong Kong. CBD was once legal in the city, and cafes and shops selling CBD-infused products were popular with young people. But all that has changed with the ban, which went into effect on Wednesday but had been announced by the government last year. CBD-related businesses have closed, while others have struggled to remodel their businesses. Consumers dumped what they saw as a cure for their ailments into special collection boxes set up around the city. The new rule reflects a zero-tolerance policy toward dangerous drugs in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous commercial hub in southern China, as well as in mainland China, where CBD was banned in 2022. The city maintains several categories of “dangerous drugs.” . which include “hard drugs” like 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 to THC. Customs authorities promised last week to do more to educate residents and help them understand that CBD is banned in Hong Kong, although it is legal elsewhere. As of Wednesday, possession of CBD can result in up to seven years in jail and a HK$1 million ($128,000) fine. Those convicted of importing, exporting or producing the substance can face life in prison and a HK$5 million ($638,000) fine. Some users said that the ban shows that the international financial center is backing down. “It just feels less like an international city,” said Jennifer Lo, owner of CBD Bakery, which began selling CBD-infused cheesecakes, cookies and beverages in 2021. Her business largely dried up even before it the ban will take effect, he said. “Rumors about the ban affected the way I do business,” she said. “Some platforms just logged me out without telling me. And then it was not so easy to get space in the markets”. To comply with the ban, Lo dumped all of her remaining stock, including dozens of cookies, and said she would have to rebrand her business. A few other vendors, including the city’s first CBD cafe that opened in 2020, have gone out of business. Karena Tsoi, who used CBD skin care products for two years to treat her eczema, said she will have to find an alternative treatment. “It’s troublesome,” she said. “The government doesn’t have to regulate like that.” Most Asian nations have strict drug laws with stiff penalties, with the exception of Thailand, which legalized marijuana cultivation and possession last year. Elsewhere, the CBD debate continues. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said last week that there is not enough evidence on CBD to confirm that it is safe to consume in food or as a dietary supplement, and called on Congress to create new rules. for the growing market. popular in lotions, tinctures, and foods, while its legal status has been murky in the US, where several states have legalized or decriminalized substances that remain federally illegal. /Pacific Asia

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