Hong Kong on recently banned cannabidiol (CBD) as a “dangerous drug” and imposed stiff penalties for its possession, forcing start-ups to shut down or rebuild.

The ban on cannabidiol (CBD) in Hong Kong came into effect on February 1, with severe penalties for importing, producing or possessing the substance.

Now the CBD is subject to the same strict controls as other drugs listed under the Dangerous Substances Ordinance (DDO). According to the customs announcement, the import of products containing ingredients, including food and beverages, is prohibited unless the relevant regulations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are followed.

Customs Intelligence Officer U Yong Ka Lun, said at a press conference, “Starting from February 1, cannabidiol, aka CBD, will be regarded as a dangerous drug and will be supervised and managed by the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance”.

Supporters say CBD, or cannabidiol, which comes from the hemp plant, relieves stress and inflammation without getting users high, unlike its more famous sour cousin THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that has long been illegal in Hong Kong. CBD was once legal in this city. And cafes and shops selling CBD products were popular among young people.

However, a panel of experts from the World Health Organization established in 2017 said that CBD itself is neither harmful nor prone to abuse, but still does not recommend the compound for medical use.
Some studies have even shown that CBD has therapeutic value, especially for people who suffer from seizures and clinical anxiety.

But that all changed with the ban announced by the government last year, which came into effect on February 1. CBD-related businesses have closed, while others are struggling to rebuild their businesses. Consumers drop what they believe to be cures for ailments into special collection boxes set up around the city.

The government instructed that any products containing the ingredient must be placed in disposal boxes set up around the city by the end of the month. As of January 29, approximately 77,400 items containing CBD had been collected, including edible oils and health supplements.

Importing, exporting and producing CBD could result in a maximum penalty of an HKD 5 million ($640,000 approx.) fine and life imprisonment. Meanwhile, possession is liable to a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment and a fine of up to HKD 1 million ($130,000 approx.).

Elsewhere, the debate over cannabidiol (CBD) continues

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said there is not enough evidence about CBD to confirm that it’s safe for consumption in foods or as a dietary supplement. It called on Congress to create new rules for the growing market.

Marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods. In contrast, their legal status has been murky in the U.S., where several states have legalized or decriminalized substances that remain illegal federally.

When Thailand legalized cannabis products, including CBD, nationwide last year, some commentators speculated that it could be the beginning of a broader drug policy liberalization for Asia, where strict rules are predominant.

In Singapore, for example, which is notorious for its zero-tolerance approach to drugs, CBD is considered a cannabis product, and even its use by Singaporean citizens or permanent residents abroad is prosecutable.

And in China, reportedly the world’s largest hemp-cultivating country, CBD was made completely illegal in 2022.

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