Hong Kong’s growing
Hong Kong officials announced the ban one year after mainland China passed a prohibition on CBD in cosmetics, despite the country’s growing hemp industry. Authorities say that a test of 4,000 CBD products in the city revealed that more than one-third contained trace amounts of THC, the cannabinoid largely responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabis. Hong Kong officials also said they feared that CBD could lead to illegal drug use, which is becoming more prevalent in the city.
Dr. Albert K.K. Chung, clinical assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s department of psychiatry, said that CBD can be converted to THC if products are subjected to direct sunlight or high temperatures.
“If you have CBD being improperly stored, it could cause this kind of degradation,” he said, adding that ingesting THC can cause psychotropic or gastrointestinal side effects.
Fung Sai-fu, an instructor at the department of social and behavioral sciences at the City University of Hong Kong, said that the ban on CBD will not impede research into the cannabinoid. But he added that the evidence of CBD’s purported health benefits is so far inconclusive.
“For research and medical use, the current proposed CBD ban will not affect the research related to cannabis compounds and the use of CBD pharmaceutical products,” Fung said. “But for the consumer or recreational cannabidiol use, there is no clear scientific evidence to support CBD with those advertised health benefits.”
He added that some research has shown that CBD users experience side effects including difficulty sleeping.
“Some medical experts also warned that CBD may interfere with the functioning of other medications and may be contaminated,” he said.
CBD Ban: The End of Hong Kong’s Industry
Hong Kong’s prohibition on CBD comes as more and more businesses have been offering products made with the cannabinoid. Under the ban, businesses will have three months to dispose of all CBD products once the bill becomes law.
The cannabidiol industry in Hong Kong got its start in 2020 with the opening of Found, the city’s first CBD cafe. Since that time, a growing number of businesses have opened selling CBD tinctures, oils, foods, beverages and other products. But with the new ban looming, the owners of Found plan to shut the cafe down in October.
“The proposed ban would unfortunately result in the retail store and café closing,” Fiachra Mullen, chief marketing officer for Found’s parent company, Altum International,
With the businesses closing, the ban will also impact those who use CBD. A consumer named Cheryl, who asked to be referred to only by her first name, said that she began using CBD during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
“I didn’t have in-person classes at the time, and it was easy to have anxious thoughts when you stayed at home a lot,” she said.
Cheryl added that she learned about CBD during a university research project. She then purchased a cannabidiol tincture from an online retailer that espoused the reported health benefits of CBD, including reducing stress and anxiety.
“I started using CBD tincture,” she said. “My thoughts were like waves crashing over me, but it suddenly calmed down.”
Hong Kong has notoriously strict drug laws. Those convicted of possession of banned substances face up to seven years in prison, while drug manufacturing or trafficking can result in a life sentence.