What's Behind the CBD Crackdown in New York City

February 19, 2019

By Brian Henry

New Yorkers will soon have to kiss their cannabis-infused coffees goodbye. Food and drinks containing CBD have been disappearing from shelves and menus throughout New York since it became the first U.S. city to ban bars and restaurants from serving those products to consumers.

"What we've seen so far, is a certain number of businesses getting visits from the health department, which comes to the restaurant, embargoes their CBD products and doesn't allow them to sell those products to consumers anymore," Amanda Mull, a reporter for The Atlantic, told Cheddar Tuesday.

But that doesn't mean CBD edibles are impossible to purchase in the city just yet.

"There are restaurants who are playing it sort of cautious and trying to prevent any enforcement measures being taken against them and taking things off the menu," Mull explained. "On the wait-and-see end, there's a lot of businesses who seem to be saying, 'If they want it, they can come take it ー otherwise, we'll keep selling it.'"

Allison Margolin, Founding Partner of Margolin & Lawrence, says there's very little restaurant and bar owners can do to fight the imposed ban, which she said is justifiable under the law.

"Each state is allowed to obviously regulate and ban products that are unregulated and the FDA hasn't come up with any type of regulation schematic yet.

Although President Trump signed a bill legalizing hemp, which is one of the ways CBD can be extracted, the Food and Drug Administration maintains that it has not been labeled as a safe food additive.

As a result, the crackdown on hemp-based CBD is even happening in states like Maine, where recreational marijuana is legal.

"We're not talking about marijuana," Margolin said. "In states where there are commercial cannabis systems, like California and many other states, the states are allowing CBD production through the cannabis plant because that's regulated. What they're not allowing is the extraction of it from the hemp plant because that's not regulated. In Nevada and many other states you can buy CBD lawfully at a dispensary because that's through the state's own commercial cannabis system. They just don't want hemp being used because there is no hemp system yet."

So why hasn't there been a system in place to regulate CBD?

Mull told Cheddar that regulatory agencies are playing catch-up with a wellness trend that is spreading with the speed of internet virality.

"It takes a while for the federal governments and also municipal health departments to come up with how they want that standardized and brands that sell CBD to react to that," Mull said. "In the meantime, while they were contemplating this, there were just people sending CBD to restaurants, to bars and people just sort of trying it out on their own."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said legalizing recreational marijuana is one of his priorities for 2019. Margolin says that this could provide a pathway to allow New Yorkers to consume some CBD-based products again.

"If medical marijuana is legalized that would, at least under state law, legalize CBDs derived from the cannabis plant. If hemp is legalized and there's actually a CBD regulation system in New York then I think they can go back to Congress with that and actually get federal approval and there may be a way for CBDs to be sold that are derived from hemp," Margolin said.

"In the meantime, CBD derived from cannabis will be allowed by the states that allow commercial cannabis programs. They are regularly available and at least you know when you're getting it from a commercial cannabis retail facility that its been tested, what's in it, how much CBD is in it and that in fact it is CBD."

Even once CBD is approved for consumption, Mull says it's important to note that the effects of CBD remain anecdotal.

"I think people go little bit crazy in talking about the health benefits. There's a lot of perhaps, exaggerated information online about what CBD can do for you," Mull told Cheddar. "The research so far is limited, but promising. People get a little overly excited over what CBD might do for them. In reality, it can potentially be good for anxiety, for information. There's just not research to back up a lot of it yet."

For full interview click here.