At the start of the month, the Department of Health announced that it had begun ordering all restaurants and bars in the city to stop selling CBD-infused products, citing an FDA ruling from December saying that it is "unlawful to add CBD to food or drink." The DOH started embargoing CBD-infused food products in January, but the department may have gotten ahead of itself—because its now postponing the embargo until this summer.
"The Health Department is responsible for promoting the safety of the food available to New Yorkers," the Health Department said in a statement to Gothamist. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has advised that it is unlawful to add cannabidiol (CBD) to food or drink. We are currently informing businesses in New York City that may sell food and drink about this regulation, and have implemented an educational period to help them achieve compliance."
The DOH sent out an email to restaurateurs this week stating that it has started implementing an education-only period through June 30th after many businesses were caught off-guard by the sudden change in policy. After that date, the Health Department says the embargoed food and drink products "will have to be returned to the supplier or discarded." Starting October 1st, the DOH will begin issuing violations subject to fines as well as violation points that count toward the establishments letter grade.
The DOH had already ordered at least five restaurants to stop using CBD products since the start of the new year. One of those restaurants was Fat Cat Kitchen—co-owner CJ Holm told Gothamist that during a routine inspection, she had about $1,000 worth of CBD edibles "embargoed" inside baggies like the one up above (they did not ask the restaurant to destroy or throw out the products).
"They seemed very confused," Holm told Gothamist. "They had no information about CBD to begin with. So they're looking for and asking questions about things they don't understand." She added, "They made statements that weren't true, they didn't explain what the issue was, they didn't take the CBD, they just put it in a plastic baggie...It was so random and arbitrary and unclear what we had done wrong."
CBD is one of more than 80 naturally occurring active compounds found in cannabis plants, but it lacks the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, a.k.a. THC, the compound which gets people high. Last year, the increasing popularity of CBD led to numerous local restaurants and bars embracing the trend and incorporating CBD products into their food and drinks. That includes by Chloe, the chic vegan restaurant and sweets purveyor, which launched its own CBD-infused product line of sugary confections, and Adriaen Block, a full-on CBD-focused cocktail bar and restaurant in Astoria.
Earlier this week, City Council speaker Corey Johnson said he thought the DOH move was an "overreaction" and that he was considering legislation to overturn the ban. He said, "I want to hear what the Health Department wants to do to correct this given the science, and if they refuse to do so, the Council is willing to look at this issue legislatively."
Pointing out that CBD is still technically legal as its own product, he added, "I think the Health Department should come up with some regulations that make sense for CBD...What medical professionals have said is CBD in small doses in food products is not harmful—and does not even get people high, that there’s a medicinal quality that can help with anxiety and other health benefits."