A 32-year-old woman was recently put in prison for possession of CBD in Hong Kong. According to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP), she has become the first person to receive a criminal conviction for CBD since Hong Kong officially banned it earlier this year. Now it’s illegal to possess, consume, or sell CBD products, and is categorized the same as substances like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
The woman carried two CBD products when going through customs on March 29 when she was traveling from the U.S. to Hong Kong. According to the report, she also carried 2.2 grams of ketamine and 10 “syringes,” although it was not specified if they were empty or contained a specific substance.
On July 7, the woman was sentenced to two months in prison for two counts of drug possession and one count for the syringes. A Hong Kong customs official stated that her conviction “reflects the seriousness of the offence and serves as a clear warning to the general public.”
Hong Kong’s current law states that offenders caught with CBD can receive up to seven years in prison, with fines up to HK$1 million (approximately US$128,000). Those who are caught importing, exporting, or manufacturing CBD receive harsher punishments. One of the main reasons that authorities say led to the ban was because CBD can potentially be converted to THC.
China banned CBD in topical or cosmetic products back in 2021, and Hong Kong followed suit earlier this year in February. “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,” a customs intelligence officer stated. “As of then, transporting CBD for sale, including import and export, as well as producing, possessing and consuming CBD, will be illegal.”
Chan Kai-ho, a divisional commander with the department’s Airport Command, added in a statement that they plan to do whatever it takes to enforce the law. “We will tackle all kinds of dangerous drugs from all angles and all ends, and the intelligence-led enforcement action is our major goal,” Chan said.
Since then, officials have stated that within the first three months of its CBD ban they had already arrested six people, although up until now no one has gone to prison for a CBD conviction. Officials also stated that they had seized 852 CBD products within that time frame, which were described with a value of around $16,600 and were all taken from people entering Hong Kong.
Back in September 2020, Hong Kong first CBD café, called Found, opened and offered a wide variety of CBD-based products, such as CBD oil, powders to be used in food, butters, pet products, infused beer, and coffee. However, it announced in August 2022 that it would be closing down due to the incoming ban. “Sadly, in spite of the demonstrable positive impact, it has now become apparent that the Hong Kong government intends to adopt new legislation to prohibit the sale and possession of CBD,” Found wrote on its Instagram page. “While we do not know exactly when it will take effect, it is expected to happen sometime around the end of 2022 or early 2023. With this, we have had to make the difficult decision to close the Found café at the end of September.”
In May, a large amount of cocaine and cannabis, valued at HK$650 million (US$83 million), was seized by Hong Kong police. Labeled as the biggest seizure of the year, “The cannabis flower buds seized this time were stored among frozen fish,” explained Chief Inspector Charm Yiu-kwong. “We believe the drug cartel used this method … in an attempt to cover up the odor of marijuana with the frozen fish’s pungent smell.” According to Hong Kong law, a maximum sentence for drug trafficking can lead to life in prison.