The hustle and bustle city of Hong Kong, China saw its first legal case centered on cannabidiol (CBD) products last Friday, a clear outcome of the city’s recent decision to prohibit the substance. This incident involved a 32-year-old woman who faced prison time due to the possession of CBD during her entry to the city.
In a global perspective, CBD, a substance derived from the cannabis plant that does not induce a highs, is celebrated for its potential health benefits. Users across worldwide claim it helps in alleviating pain, reducing stress, curtailing anxiety, and minimising inflammation.
Ironically, in Hong Kong, as of February, CBD belongs on the same legal shelf as hardcore drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, with possession, sale, and consumption of CBD all becoming punishable offenses.
While arriving from the United States on the 29th of March, the woman was intercepted by customs with two bottles of personal CBD care products. They also found 2.2 grams of ketamine and ten syringes, which led to her arrest. Details about her nationality were not disclosed by the authorities.
The subsequent court proceedings resulted in a two-month imprisonment sentence for her, under two counts of drug possession and a count related to the syringes. A statement from Hong Kong customs emphasized that this punishment “serves as a clear warning to the general public” about the severity of CBD-related offenses now.
The current regulation around CBD possession and consumption stipulates severe punitive measures of seven years in jail and penalties of up to HK$1 million (US$127,000). Import, export, and manufacturing face even more stringent repercussions.
Officials from Hong Kong defend the CBD restriction on the basis that it can potentially be transformed into the illicit compound THC, the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis. This follows mainland China’s decision to outlaw CBD in cosmetic products in 2021.
In contrast, CBD continues to rise in popularity globally. CBD-infused products, from gummies, coffee, and beers to beauty creams, form part of a booming industry expected to rise to a staggering US$47 billion by 2028, a steep jump from $4.9 billion in 2021.
Notably, parts of Europe, the United States, and a few Asian countries like Japan and Thailand acknowledge the legal status of CBD.
Hong Kong officials seized 852 suspected CBD items and arrested six individuals within the first three months post the ban. The items confiscated were mainly skincare products, amounting to an estimated total value of roughly US$16,600, with most of them caught upon entry into Hong Kong.