CBD crackdown: Maine, New York, and Ohio are waging war on CBD edibles

There are at least two places within a five-minute walk of my Brooklyn apartment where I can get a CBD latte. In the same area, there are probably at least half a dozen bodegas where I can get CBD gummies, CBD chocolate, or expensive CBD-infused juice. New York City is in the midst of a CBD boom — but the boom may soon be coming to an end. The city’s Department of Health recently paid a visit to a Manhattan bakery that sells CBD-infused pastries and prohibited the owner from selling any food or drinks containing the compound, Eater reported this week.

According to Eater, officials with the health department confiscated $1,000 worth of CBD pastries from the Fat Cat Kitchen on February 4 during a routine inspection. They didn’t take the baked goods, owner C.J. Holm told Eater, but instead put them in a plastic bag and marked them as “embargoed,” meaning they can’t be sold.

“I mean, this is crazy,” Holm told Eater. “They couldn’t even intelligently explain to me exactly what the problem was when I spoke to them on the phone.”

The incident at Fat Cat Kitchen may be a sign of a broader crackdown on CBD happening in the city. It also suggests a broader uncertainty over the legality of CBD, which is increasingly marketed as a cure for ailments like migraines and anxiety.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is currently in a gray zone of legality. The Drug Enforcement Administration maintains that CBD is illegal since it’s derived from cannabis, but the Food and Drug Administration approved a CBD prescription drug — the first of its kind to be legally sold in the US — in June, per the New York Times. But the FDA has also said that CBD-infused products can’t be sold as dietary supplements, nor can they be sold in food that crosses state lines.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. There are the aforementioned Fat Cat Kitchen baked goods, for one, plus dozens of other places in New York City where you can get CBD-laden coffee, smoothies, and even dog treats. These products aren’t sold in secret, either — plenty of places advertise their CBD goods. This phenomenon is by no means limited to New York: As Dan Nosowitz recently reported for Vox, you can find CBD products everywhere from California to Miami, and even Coca-Cola is considering selling a line of CBD-infused drinks.

The Fat Cat incident may be indicative of broader efforts to crack down on CBD, which stores and cafes all over the city have been selling without incident for months. (Notably, Holm told Eater that DOH inspectors visited the cafe at least twice and didn’t mention the CBD products.) The health department has asked five restaurants so far to stop selling CBD-infused food, a spokesperson told the Times. (The department did not respond to Vox’s request for comment.)

New York isn’t the only place trying to rein in CBD sales. State health officials in both Maine, which legalized recreational marijuana use last year, and Ohio, where marijuana is legal for medical use, recently began cracking down on CBD edibles, according to local news outlets.

In both New York and Maine, CBD can be legally sold as long as it’s not in edible form. Holm told Eater that health department officials told her she could sell CBD, but not as a “food additive,” a distinction Holm said didn’t make sense.

“It’s like telling me I can buy rum and I can sell rum, but I can’t sell a rum baba.”

The comparison to a rum cake is apt, since there’s no evidence that CBD-infused products actually do anything, at least not in the doses sold on the mass market. “There’s no evidence that doses below 300 mg of CBD have any effect in any psychiatric measure,” Esther Blessing, a professor and researcher at NYU who performs and reviews clinical trials on CBD’s effectiveness in treating conditions including post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and substance addiction, told Vox in January. The standard dosage for a CBD edible, meanwhile, is around 20 mg.

That doesn’t mean CBD isn’t effective — its effects are still being studied — but that it’s least effective in edible form, which happens to be what cities and states across the country are most interested in regulating. In the same way a rum baba won’t get you drunk despite having rum in it, a CBD-infused cookie won’t necessarily help your anxiety, though there is something to be said for the efficacy of placebo effects.

If officials do plan on cracking down on CBD edibles, Fat Cat Kitchen isn’t the only place that will be affected — or the only place that will be prohibited from selling thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise to a consumer base that has already developed a taste for CBD, regardless of whether it actually does anything.

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