The New York City Health Department revealed last week that it will begin fining businesses that continue to offer CBD products after September. In an email sent by the department to restauranteurs last week, businesses were informed that the ban on CBD goods would go into effect on July 1. After that date, inspectors who find CBD products at restaurants will embargo them, removing them from sale and forcing the business to return them to the supplier or discard them. Beginning October 1, restaurants still offering CBD products will be “subject to fines,” according to a report from CNBC, which has obtained a copy of the email.
A department spokesman confirmed details of the email sent to New York City business owners in a statement to CNBC.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has advised that it is unlawful to add cannabidiol (CBD) to food or drink,” the spokesman said. “We are currently informing businesses in New York City that may sell food and drink about this regulation, and have implemented an educational period to help them achieve compliance.”
Under FDA regulations, it is not legal to add drugs to foods and drinks. That rule applies to CBD, which is the active ingredient of the drug Epidiolex. The rule remains, despite the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, while the FDA seeks legal pathways for CBD products to enter the market.
CBD Ban Announced Two Weeks Ago
Earlier this month, an NYC health department spokesperson announced that CBD would not be allowed in foods and beverages sold at New York City eateries.
“Restaurants in New York City are not permitted to add anything to food or drink that is not approved as safe to eat,” she said. “The Health Department takes seriously its responsibility to protect New Yorkers’ health. Until cannabidiol (CBD) is deemed safe as a food additive, the Department is ordering restaurants not to offer products containing CBD.”
That clarification came after the department had already begun enforcing the ban. CJ Holm, the owner of the Fat Cat Kitchen in Manhattan, had been offering CBD treats when health department inspectors embargoed the products on hand and said that they could not be sold. Holm said that the inspectors’ visit left her “with nothing but questions. They made statements that weren’t true, they didn’t explain what the issue was, they didn’t take the CBD, they just put it in a plastic baggie.”
“It was so random and arbitrary and unclear what we had done wrong,” she added. “I had to call the Department of Health three times to get someone on the phone who even knew what CBD was. One woman put me on hold, and then came back and said, ‘Oh I just Googled it, now I know what CBD is!’ You’re taking away my CBD, and nobody even knows what it is!”
Last week, Holm received a phone call from the department informing her that the cookies had been released from embargo.
“They jumped the gun,” Holm said. “They did this before they were ready.”
Congress Seeks Guidance from FDA
Also last week, twelve members of Congress sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb calling on the agency to show leadership on the issue.
“We are calling on FDA to swiftly provide guidance on lawful pathways for food products containing hemp-derived CBD in interstate commerce,” the letter reads. “We are looking for immediate leadership from the Federal Government to eliminate confusion around this issue.”
The members requested a quick reply from Gottlieb, asking him to respond by Friday, February 22.