Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Oct. 20. 2022, and was updated Feb. 1, 2023, to reflect that the CBD ban has gone into effect.
The Hong Kong government has banned CBD and moved it to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (DDO), placing it in the same category as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Starting Feb. 1, any individual who manufactures CBD products could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a $5 million fine. Individuals who possess or consume such products could face up to seven years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to the governments October 2022
announcement. Following the announcement, the government created disposable boxes for individuals to dispose of their CBD products at select locations from Oct. 27 to Jan. 20, 2023.
CBD products were previously legal in Hong Kong if they did not contain any traces of THC, the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis. THC is illegal in Hong Kong for its psychoactive properties and is the First Schedule to DDO, according to a government document.
The government argued while “CBD, in its pure form, is not psychoactive and is not associated with abuse potential,” according to the “Government Laboratory (GL), where CBD is extracted from cannabis, it is very difficult to isolate pure CBD from cannabis, and it would not be practical to completely remove THC impurities from CBD isolates.”
The government also noted that CBD products risk cross-contamination of THC during the production process and that it is “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.”
GL officials added that CBD could naturally convert into THC when exposed to carbon dioxide in air and water, as it may act as a catalyst for the conversion.
In addition, GL officials said scientific research has found CBD could be purposely converted to THC with a very high yield in an environment like a household kitchen using simple processes and harnessing commonly available acidic materials. GL officials said they conducted a similar in-house experiment which produced results “with the yield of conversion of CBD to THC up to 60%.”
Moreover, officials said scientific literature has reported that “CBD added to e-cigarettes may be converted to THC, among other cannabinoids, during smoking.”