By / February 6, 2023

Hong Kong Criminalizes CBD, Possession Carries Life Imprisonment

Hong Kong has officially classified cannabidiol (CBD) as a “dangerous drug” as of Wednesday, February 1, and will impose strict penalties for transportation, production, possession, and consumption. 

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CBD Now Subject to “Serious Consequences” in Hong Kong

At a press conference, Hong Kong Customs chief Au-Yeung Ka-Lun stressed that transporting, importing, and exporting CBD, as well as manufacturing, possessing, and consuming the substance, is “illegal and subject to serious consequences,” such as fines of up to HK$5 million (over $2,700) and/or imprisonment – up to life imprisonment, depending on the case.

The move has sparked outrage among CBD advocates, who say the substance can treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, and does not have psychoactive effects like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is already banned in Hong Kong.

CBD Was Previously Legal in Hong Kong

Previously, CBD derived from the hemp plant was legal in Hong Kong, with bars and stores selling CBD products. However, Hong Kong authorities decided to ban the substance due to the difficulty of isolating CBD directly from the plant and the possibility of THC contamination during production. The government also claims that CBD can be converted into THC and other semi-synthetic cannabinoids.

The ban affects dozens of companies in Hong Kong that have begun selling products containing CBD, such as jellies, beverages, and others. In October 2022, residents were informed that they had three months to dispose of their CBD products in special containers placed around the city.

Hong Kong’s “dangerous drugs” category includes substances such as heroin and cocaine, as well as cannabis itself. This ban on CBD by the Hong Kong government is in line with China’s stance of banning the substance in 2022.

Heavy Fines and Life Imprisonment for CBD

The head of the Customs Service, Au-Yeung Ka-lun, stated at a press conference that “as of February 1, cannabidiol, also known as CBD, will be considered a dangerous drug and will be controlled by the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.”

In addition, Au-Yeung stressed that transporting, importing, and exporting CBD for sale, as well as manufacturing, possessing, and consuming the substance, is illegal and will be punished with severe consequences. Importing, exporting, or manufacturing CBD can result in imprisonment (up to life imprisonment) and fines of up to HKD5 million (about €585,350), while possession of CBD can result in imprisonment of up to seven years and fines can lead to HKD1 million (about €117,000).

Head of the Customs Department’s Airport Command section, Chan Kai-ho, also pointed to the Hong Kong government’s zero-tolerance policy on drugs, stressing that “we will combat all types of dangerous drugs from all angles and for all purposes, and information-based enforcement is our main goal.”

Hong Kong Is no Great Exception in Asian Region

In Asia, most countries maintain strict drug laws and impose harsh penalties on offenders. The only exception is Thailand, which removed cannabis from its drug list and legalized the cultivation and possession of cannabis in 2022.

Paradoxically, the first medical use of cannabis was described in China, with its use recorded in the world’s oldest pharmacopeia, Pen-Ts’ao of China, dating to 2700 B.C., referring to the use of cannabis to treat various conditions such as rheumatic pain, intestinal problems, malaria and problems in the female reproductive system.

(Featured image by Narcotics Division, Security Bureau via YouTube)

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