NYC Health Department Cracking Down on Restaurants Serving CBD

New Yorkers might start feeling dizzy from the roller coaster ride that’s been the latest news regarding cannabis legalization in the Empire State. In spite of State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement, a cannabis legalization plan as a top priority for this year’s administration, the NYC Health Department has decided to stick to federal legislation, and proceed to embargo all CBD-containing food during routine inspections. 

As of today, five restaurants have been ordered to stop selling any type of CBD-laced products. The decision was backed in a statement, in which the spokesperson announced that, even though hemp derived CBD is legal nationwide, it’s still not considered safe as a food additive, making its inclusion in food and beverages illegal under FDA regulation.

CBD: Legal or Not?

On late December 2018, President Trump signed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the “farm bill”. This major landmark in the history of CBD legalization meant that, among many other measures, hemp-derived CBD will no longer be a scheduled an illegal drug in the Controlled Substances Act.

However, this event did not clear the way for CBD becoming completely unregulated, since the FDA continues to recognize it as an active drug, thus forbidding its use as an ingredient in regular food and drinks.

Following similar enforcements by local food administrations in Maine and Ohio just last week, Danielle De Souza, spokesperson from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene stated: “The Health Department takes seriously its responsibility to protect New Yorkers’ health. Until cannabidiol (CBD) is deemed safe as a food additive, the Department is ordering restaurants not to offer products containing CBD.”

A Rising Trend Stopped Short

Starting strong in 2017 and hitting its peak by 2018, the CBD-laced scene became one of New York’s top food trends. From coffee to cocktails, from bakery goods to dog treats, a galaxy of products rose from within the creative minds of the Big Apple’s culinary entrepreneurs, making the non-psychoactive cannabinoid enter the mainstream food market.

Beginning as a shy menu addition at some cocktail bars and coffee shops, the trend became clearly massive as CBD-exclusive venues started showing up, like the Adriaen Block bar in Astoria, which offered a wide menu of CBD infused drinks à la carte; and Feelz by Chloe, and all-CBD line of baked goods from the By Chloe vegan restaurant chain.

The new measure is bound to affect the economy of many small businesses that currently base their branding image and business model on the sale of CBD-related aliments. Dorothy Stepnowska, owner of the Flower Power Coffee House in Ridgewood told the NY Post: “It makes no sense, it has no THC, no psycho-additive. It’s a plant, it comes from the ground… it helps a lot of people.”

The embargoing of CBD-laced products began last month, and the NYC Health Department announced that from July 1st, fines up to $650 will be applied to those failing to observe the law.

The situation may drastically change once Governor Cuomo’s proposed program for the legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis becomes implemented. Though the Democratic Party member described the plan as his third-highest priority for the first 100 days of the new year, it’s still not clear when actual implementation will start taking place.