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Hong Kong bans CBD, a move that forces businesses to shut down or revamp : NPR


In this image created from video, products containing CBD are displayed at the Hong Kong Customs press conference in Hong Kong, Friday, January 27, 2023.

Alice Fung/AP


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Alice Fung/AP


In this image created from video, products containing CBD are displayed at the Hong Kong Customs press conference in Hong Kong, Friday, January 27, 2023.

Alice Fung/AP

HONG KONG — Hong Kong banned CBD as a “dangerous drug” and imposed harsh penalties for its possession on Wednesday, forcing fledgling businesses to close or reshuffle.

Proponents say that CBD, or cannabidiol, which is derived from the cannabis plant, can help reduce stress and inflammation without making users high, unlike its more famous THC cousin, The psychoactive part of cannabis has long been banned in Hong Kong. Once CBD was legal in the city, cafes and shops selling CBD products were very popular among young people.

But that all changed with the ban, which took effect on Wednesday but was announced by the government last year. CBD-related businesses closed while others struggled to remodel their businesses. Consumers dump what they consider to be curative into special collection boxes set up around the city.

The new rule reflects a zero-tolerance policy on dangerous drugs in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous business hub in southern China, as well as in mainland China, where CBD was banned in 2016. 2022.

The city maintains a number of “dangerous drugs,” including “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 THC contamination during production, and the relative ease with which CBD can be obtained. converted to THC.

Customs authorities last week vowed to do more to educate residents to help them understand that CBD is banned in Hong Kong even though it’s legal elsewhere.

Starting Wednesday, possession of CBD can lead to a prison sentence of up to seven years and a HK$1 million ($128,000) fine. Those found guilty of importing, exporting or manufacturing the substance could face life in prison and a HK$5 million ($638,000) fine.

Some users said the ban showed the international financial hub was in decline.

“It doesn’t look like an international city at all,” said Jennifer Lo, owner of CBD Bakery, which started selling cheesecakes, cookies and CBD-infused drinks in 2021.

Her business nearly dried up even before the ban took effect, she said.

“The rumors about the ban have affected the way I do business,” she said. “Some platforms took me offline without telling me. And then it’s not easy to get space in the markets.”

To comply with the ban, Lo dumped all of her remaining inventory, including dozens of cookies, and said she would have to rebrand her business.

Several other vendors, including the city’s first CBD cafe opening in 2020, have shut down.

Karena Tsoi, who has been using CBD skin care products for two years to treat her eczema, says she will have to find an alternative treatment.

“It was troublesome,” she said. “The government doesn’t need to regulate like this.”

Most Asian countries have strict drug laws with harsh penalties, except Thailand, which allowed the cultivation and possession of cannabis last year.

Elsewhere, the CBD debate continues.

The US Food and Drug Administration said last week that there is not enough evidence for CBD to confirm that it is safe to consume in food or as a supplement. It called on Congress to create new rules for the developing market.

Cannabis-based products are becoming increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures, and foods, while their legal status remains obscure in the United States, where several states have legalized them. Legalization or legalization of substances is still illegal federally.

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