hong kong – Hong Kong has banned CBD as a “dangerous drug” and imposed heavy fines on possession on Wednesday, forcing start-up businesses to close or upgrade.
Proponents of CBD or cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis plant, can help relieve anxiety and inflammation when users get high, unlike its more popular cousin THC, the psychoactive substance of marijuana that is illegal in Hong Kong. CBD was once legal in the city, and cafes and shops selling CBD-infused products were popular among young people.
But the ban, which came into force on Wednesday but was announced by the government last year, has changed everything. CBD-related businesses have closed, while others have struggled to revive their businesses. Consumers drop what they see as cures for their ailments into special collection boxes set up around town.
The new law reflects a zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous trade hub of southern China, as well as in mainland China, where CBD is banned by 2022.
The city maintains several categories of “dangerous drugs” that include “hard drugs” such as heroin and cocaine.
In explaining the policy change, the Hong Kong government cited the difficulty of distinguishing 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 officials last week vowed to do more to educate residents 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 1 million Hong Kong dollar ($128,000) fine. Those convicted of importing, exporting or manufacturing the substance face up to life in prison and a fine of 5 million Hong Kong dollars ($638,000).
Some users say that the ban is a sign that the financial center is going backwards.
“It feels less like a global city,” says Jennifer Lo, owner of CBD Bakery, which started selling CD-produced cheesecakes, cookies and drinks in 2021.
She said her business dried up even before the ban came into effect.
“The rumor of the ban has affected business,” she said. “Some forums took me offline without telling me. And then finding a place in the markets was not easy.
To comply with the ban, Lo threw away all of her remaining inventory, including dozens of cookies, and said she had to retool her business.
Some other vendors have closed, including the city’s first CBD cafe, which opened in 2020.
Kareena Tosoi, who has been using CBD skin care products to treat her condition for two years, says she needs to find an alternative treatment.
“It’s hard,” she said. “The government should not have this kind of control.”
Most Asian countries have strict drug laws with heavy penalties, except for Thailand, which has legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana.
Elsewhere, the debate on CBD continues.
The US Food and Drug Administration announced last week that there is not enough evidence to prove that CBD is safe for use in food or dietary supplements. He asked Congress to create new laws for the growing market.
Marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, creams and foods, but their legal status is murky in the US, where several states have legalized or decriminalized substances that remain federally illegal.
Find more of AP’s Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. all rights reserved. This article may not be published, distributed, rewritten or redistributed without permission.