Hong Kong no longer allows the sale and consumption of all forms of pet food and health products made with cannabidiol (CBD) following a total ban on CBD by the Hong Kong government that went into effect February 2023.
Most businesses that used to offer CBD products for pets disposed of their remaining stocks months ago. Others completely shut down their operations and plan to relocate to other countries where CBD is not banned.
Before the ban, Hong Kong only regulated the entry of pharmaceutical products containing CBD. Under the new law, it is a crime to possess, consume, traffic and manufacture products with CBD into Hong Kong. Although exemptions and licenses for permitted use can be granted to select individuals like medical professionals, anyone found with CBD on their person can be jailed for at least seven years and fined HK$1 million (US$127,580), while CBD traffickers and manufacturers can face life imprisonment and HK$5 million (US$637,900) in fines.
At the heart of Hong Kong's blanket legislative control over CBD is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive substance found in cannabis which has already been classified as a dangerous drug. The Hong Kong government believes even if products are labeled THC-free, there will still be traces of it that could contaminate a CBD product no matter the level of purification, and that CBD itself could naturally become THC. In addition, Hong Kong legislators think the jury is still out on CBD's purported health benefits until authoritative scientific proof becomes available.
CBD in Hong Kong: A case of boom and bust
In 2021, when China banned CBD in all cosmetics products, the displaced companies flocked to Hong Kong for a reset. Other types of CBD vendors followed and Hong Kong saw the opening of Asia's first CBD café and retail store, Found, which sold CBD lifestyle products such as balms and oils alongside regular coffee shop fare with a CBD twist. Found also carried CBD pet products to ease common pet ailments and served Hong Kong's pampered pets with CBD “puppuchinos” and cannabidiol-flavored treats. With the new CBD law, Found has since closed its doors, but asked its clientele to follow its social media pages for updates.
By slamming the brakes on CBD and classifying it as a dangerous drug, the Hong Kong government also effectively cleared pet shops and online stores of their CBD inventories almost overnight. A quick search for “CBD for pets” among various Hong Kong online pet shops now produces zero results. But one online pet shop site appears to still have CBD goods, but offers this caveat: “Please note that we no longer deliver products containing CBD to Hong Kong. Only products with shipping destinations are eligible for Hong Kong and Macau.”
Found's parent company, Altum, which is based in Australia, also appears to have a CBD collaboration with Wai Yuen Tong, a well-known traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) provider in Hong Kong, that went nowhere after the ban. A pet treat supplement called Life X Wai Yuen Tong that shows up on Altum's website was supposed to complement the range of TCM pet supplement products from the local dispensary. However, such product doesn't appear on Wai Yuen Tong's online shop.
Meanwhile, all suppliers and retailers of goods, including those in the pet food industry, are advised to ensure none of their products for Hong Kong contain any amounts of CBD and to review their product packaging and labels for CBD ingredients.