NYC Cracks Down On CBD Edibles

By Kelly Burch 02/12/19

Some NYC restaurants that sell CBD-infused foods are having their products "embargoed" by the state's Department of Health.

Image: 
man holding an edible brownie infused with CBD

Despite the fact that New York State is moving forward with plans to legalize cannabis, officials in New York City are cracking down on restaurants selling food products laced with cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD. 

C.J. Holm, the owner of Fat Cat Kitchen in the East Village, recently told The New York Times that health department officials showed up at the restaurant asking questions about products that contained CBD. Fat Cat Kitchen sold brownies, cookies and honey infused with CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis which many people believe has health benefits.

The inspectors put the CBD-infused food, worth about $1,000, in a bag labeled “Embargoed,” according to Eater. They left the product with Holm, but couldn’t explain to her why she was not able to sell it. 

“They couldn’t even intelligently explain to me exactly what the problem was when I spoke to them on the phone,” Holm said. 

Similar events took place at at least five restaurants around the city. 

CBD falls into murky legal territory. Although it is legal to buy and sell, it isn’t an approved food additive, the Department of Health said. 

“Restaurants in New York City are not permitted to add anything to food or drink that is not approved as safe to eat,” a New York City Department of Health spokesperson told The Atlantic. “Until cannabidiol… is deemed safe as a food additive, the department is ordering restaurants not to offer products containing CBD.”

Holm said that inspectors from the Department of Health have been to Fat Cat Kitchen twice before and never paid much attention to the CBD-infused product, which Holm began selling two months ago. She said that a ban on selling CBD edibles could have a big impact on her business’s bottom line. 

“My CBD stuff is absolutely the No. 1-selling revenue source in the store.”

Holm was frustrated by the lack of transparency about the policy. 

“It just seemed so random and arbitrary to me. And it was really difficult getting answers as to what the exact issue is,” she said. “Now, just out of the blue, they’re just going to randomly embargo restaurants’ products? I just don’t feel like it was done properly.”

The controversy over CBD edibles is gaining attention in other cities around the country, with Departments of Health arguing that food and drinks containing CBD need to be labeled and regulated.

“The packaging and labeling requirements aren’t there yet in states that don’t have a cannabis regime,” said California lawyer Griffen Thorne. “If you go buy a CBD beverage and it’s not specially packaged—it just looks like another coffee or whatever—someone might take a sip who doesn’t intend to.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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