The CBD craze continues going strong. And in New York City, as well as other cities across the country, CBD products are starting to show up in restaurants, bars, cafes, coffee shops, and pretty much anywhere that sells food.
Yet despite the ubiquity of CBD and CBD-infused foods and drinks, many law enforcement and public health agencies remain deeply confused and uncertain about the legal status of CBD.
The latest example of this comes from the New York Department of Health. Specifically, the DOH has now announced that it will start cracking down on businesses selling CBD foods and drinks.
Cracking Down on CBD Products
Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it was going to shutting down the sale of CBD-infused products in New York City.
However, this initial announcement did not really materialize. As reported by Gothamist, that’s primarily because many business owners were blindsided by the sudden announcement. As a result, the DOH chose to postpone the crackdown.
But now, the department has said the delay is over. And it will now start inspecting for and going after businesses that sell CBD-infused products.
Specifically, the DOH said that inspectors are now officially authorized to search for CBD products during routine food safety checks.
“The Health Department is responsible for promoting the safety of the food available to New Yorkers,” the DOH said in a recent statement. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has advised that it is unlawful to add cannabidiol (CBD) to food or drink. We have been informing businesses in New York City that may sell food and drink about this regulation to help them achieve compliance.”
For now, the DOH said it will embargo any CBD products inspectors find. But the agency will not levy any fines or penalties. At least not yet.
But the agency plans to start assessing fines for CBD products come October 1. At that point, businesses caught selling CBD-infused foods or drinks could face fines of $250-$600.
Confusion About CBD
The DOH’s announcement has compounded ongoing confusion about CBD’s legal status.
On the one hand, last year’s Farm Bill essentially legalized CBD around the country—as long as it’s derived from hemp and there’s no THC involved.
Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the federal ban on hemp. Additionally, it also authorized hemp as a valid crop that qualifies for farm subsidies and crop insurance.
And, possibly most important for the world of CBD, it allows for the interstate commerce of hemp, which means that people should now be allowed to travel with hemp-derived CBD.
However, a lot of confusion remains. This confusion seems to be coming almost exclusively from governmental agencies.
For example, despite the new rules of the Farm Bill, authorities at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport have been arresting people for traveling with CBD products.
And now, the New York DOH appears to be launching its own crackdown, despite the growing acceptance of CBD and the seeming legalization of CBD under last year’s Farm Bill.
And it sounds like the crackdown has already started. For example, Gothamist reports that DOH officials have ordered at least five restaurants to stop selling CBD products. And other restaurants have chosen to stop selling CBD products in anticipation of a DOH crackdown.
But already, people are pushing back. For one, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the DOH’s decision an “overreaction.”
“DOH abruptly shifted policy on CBD without a clear process or reasoning behind it,” he told Gothamist. “Now in light of the movement in Albany on potentially regulating CBD, DOH’s ban seems like it is even more premature.”