When you think of cannabis, do you immediately think of drugs? In fact, hemp-related products have always been part of our lives. For example, hemp seeds (the mature seeds of hemp) are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, and industrial hemp is also used in textiles and chemicals. However, the government recently illegalized cannabidiol (CBD) products with the ban coming into effect in February 2023. Numerous Hong Kong CBD product retail shops are offering closing sales now.
The government gazetted on October 21 to include CBD as a dangerous drug in Schedule 1 of the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, officially classifying CBD as a drug. The Security Bureau pointed out that when CBD is proposed from cannabis, it will inevitably contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) drugs, and CBD can be converted into THC, so there needs to be clear and effective control of CBD.
However, according to a document submitted by the Security Bureau to the Legislative Council in February 2021, CBD has no psychoactive effects and no risk of being used as a drug of abuse.
The public must dispose of CBD-containing products before February 1 next year, and the Bureau has set up disposal boxes at 10 locations in Hong Kong from now until January 30 next year (click here for the location and collection time) for the public to dispose of CBD products.
Reaction of retail shops
During the grace period provided by the government, some of the CBD retailers have shut down and stopped selling CBD products; while some stores are running “buy one get one free” campaigns to boost the final sales. One of these online shops stated on their website that the aim of the sale is to clear all inventories, and to shut down the company in compliance with the policy changes.
One of the shops that is still selling CBD products said they have imported similar products since 2018 and did not expect the government to introduce policy changes. Ms. Leung, the shop owner, said they had been doing a lot of research and selected CBD products that are absolutely free from THC to comply with the government’s policy. She is disappointed that the government’s ban is rigid and uniform, allowing for no flexibility. Also, she thinks that the retail sector was not given adequate opportunity to voice out during the policy-making process.
Ms. Helena Chan, a CBD product user, does not welcome the policy and thinks the ban is unreasonable. “This is total nonsense and not backed by scientific evidence. I see it as a way to suppress the civil rights of the people, rather than addressing public health issues,” said Ms. Chan. She said that she used CBD oil for stress relief since last year and preferred CBD products because she thinks it is natural and effective. She holds the opinion that the possibility of having THC in CBD products is not serious enough to justify a complete ban of these products entirely.
Acceptance of CBD in other countries
According to a review on cannabis by the World Health Organization in 2020, pure CBD does not have psychoactive properties and has no potential for abuse and inducing dependence. Adverse effects of CBD use include loss of appetite, diarrhea and fatigue. In the present, CBD in its pure state is not listed as a scheduled substance under the three UN Conventions.
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