CBD has been criminalized by Hong Kong officials, placing the substance on a par with heroin and cocaine.
The government justified its decision by saying the health benefits associated with CBD – the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana – lack scientific proof.
Officials added that CBD products could be used to make THC, the intoxicating substance in cannabis, which makes users feel ‘high’.
The change makes consuming CBD-containing products, including tea, skincare and chocolate, a criminal offense punishable by up to seven years in prison, and a fine of one million Hong Kong dollars (equivalent to around $127,500).
The decision comes amid a wave of marijuana legalizations across the US, with 37 states and DC now allowing cannabis to be used medically or recreationally.
A store in Texas selling a range of products containing CBD. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow cannabis to be used medically or recreationally in the US
People selling or eating CBD-containing products, including oils and chocolate, could be subject to up to seven years in prison and a fine of one million Hong Kong dollars, which is equivalent to around $127, 500 (stock picture)
CBD is a chemical found in marijuana, which does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient which produces a high.
Advocates have made a wide range of health claims about CBD, saying it can treat everything from pain and inflammation to stress and anxiety.
But Hong Kong authorities said these claims are ‘not authoritatively proven by science.’
In 2016, researchers at the University of Nottingham, in the UK, analyzed rodent studies on the drug’s ability to relieve anxiety symptoms.
They found that, overall, CBD was not a valuable tool to stop anxiety.
Some experts have even called CBD products marketed to solve these mental health issues ‘pointless’.
In a 2015 report, a Harvard expert wrote: ‘Medical marijuana is used to treat a host of indications, a few of which have evidence to support treatment with marijuana and many that do not.’
From February 1, 2023, CBD will be listed as a dangerous drug, meaning people importing or exporting the substance could land a lifetime in prison and a fine of five million Hong Kong dollars (roughly $637,600).
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And the sale or consumption of any skincare, oils, gummies, chocolate, beverages including coffee powder or tea, or health supplements containing CBD will be subject to up to seven years in prison and a fine of one million Hong Kong dollars (equivalent to around $127,500).
The government argued that CBD could be used to produce the intoxicating compound THC, which is already illegal in the region.
It is hard to isolate pure CBD from cannabis, the government said.
‘Most likely, CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, which can be harmful.’
It added that CBD can naturally decompose into THC in typical storage conditions, and can be used to make it.
CBD will join more than 200 other ‘dangerous drugs’ which are criminalized in Hong Kong.
The ban aligns the city with China, which prohibited CBD cosmetics last year.
Last week in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that CBD did not meet safety standards and asked Congress to step in and pass laws regulating it.
The FDA noted various safety concerns with CBD use – including links to liver damage and male infertility after longtime use.
This was a major setback for the budding industry in the US, and raised fears the federal government would crack down on its sales in the coming years.