According to the Hong Kong Free Press, a Hong Kong Legislative Council Panel on Security announced in June that it would pursue a ban on CBD. In a written paper, the council claimed that the reason for this is because CBD always has the potential to contain trace amounts of THC. “It is nearly inevitable that CBD products manufactured from CBD isolates contain certain levels of THC, even though at trace levels or levels below the detection limits of various analytical methods,” the council wrote.
This enforcement is leading to the raid of many CBD businesses. In one example, the story of Daniel (a fake name to protect the individual’s identity) explained the situation. He had operated his business for three years before the raid occurred. “My mind was blank as I watched the officers taking all my products off the shelves one by one,” said Daniel. “Everything I did went to waste.” Daniel noted that no officers told him that his products contained THC. Prior to the raid, he personally sent products in for testing that reported that no THC was present.
Hong Kong law enforcement has been targeting CBD business owners since November 2021, having seized more than 30,000 CBD products. An unknown number of these products were tested, and allegedly one third contained THC.
The Hong Kong Free Press also noted that 34 people have been arrested for “trafficking dangerous drugs and possession of dangerous drugs.” No charges have been made yet, and all of them were released on bail, although they are currently still under investigation. According to the Narcotics Division, “any quantity of a dangerous drug shall be a dangerous drug.”
The Legislative Council’s paper claimed that CBD will decompose into THC. Hong Kong Free Press reached out to University of California, Davis Professor Donald Land, who confirmed that this is true, but any THC created would produce “an extremely small effect.” “The government position clearly points at the mere presence of any amount of dangerous drug, and not on the effects, or lack thereof,” Land said.
Denise Tam, owner of the online CBD store Heavens Please, also spoke about the government’s reasoning. “As we know, there is no absolute zero in science,” Tam said. “The government probably found 0.00001 per cent of THC. What’s the impact of that?”
Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Albert Chung, from the University of Hong Long’s psychiatry department, told Hong Kong Free Press that research on THC is more limited than those analyzing CBD. To law enforcement though, cannabis is defined as a “dangerous drug.” “In Hong Kong, all psychoactive drugs including cannabis, ketamine, opioids, are categorised [by authorities] into one group—dangerous drugs,” Chung said.
Chung recently published a study called “Attitudes and beliefs of medical students on cannabis in Hong Kong.” Although his students were supportive of “training and research” on cannabis, Chung believes it could take years for Hong Kong to recognize the effectiveness of CBD as a medicine instead of a dangerous drug. “It would be quite difficult for Hong Kong to have medical cannabis in the next 10 years,” Chung said.
In the meantime, it appears that some patients who have found relief with CBD are stocking up, and are expecting CBD to quickly disappear from store shelves for the time being. “That CBD could even be sold in Hong Kong was a big step. Now, we’re moving backwards,” said one consumer.
Back in September 2020, Hong Kong’s first CBD cafe, called Found, opened in the Sheung Wan district. However, the cafe announced on August 19 that it would be closing in anticipation of the looming CBD 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.”