New York City Claims Veto Power Over Food Ingredients in CBD Ban

It's legal, but the health department thinks it's somehow different when added to other products.


CBD-infused lemonade
Richard B. Levine/Newscom

New York City's health department is cracking down on bakeries and restaurants that are putting the marijuana derivative cannabidiol (CBD) in foods and drinks, even as the state approaches the possibility of legalizing pot.

CBD lacks the psychoactive components to get users high, but it has become a trendy additive in foods among people who say it helps calm them and relieve stress. Whether this is actually true or just marketing nonsense remains to be seen (Mike Riggs wrote a lengthy piece about CBD's actual benefits and the current foodie trends in Reason's February issue).

There's an almost comical twist in how and why the city is cracking down on the additive. It's actually not really about whether CBD itself is legal or illegal. The New York Daily News says that CBD derivatives are legal in New York City, but it's a bit more complicated and depends on whether the oil originates from marijuana or hemp. And then there's the matter that the Drug Enforcement Administration believes it's all illegal because marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug.

But that's not what's going on here. The issue is that the New York City Health Department has not given local businesses permission to add CBD to food and drinks. It is not an "approved" addition. New York City health nannies declare that they have policy-making powers to veto individual food ingredients. From the New York Daily News:

While CBD is legal, the Department of Health says it runs afoul of rules prohibiting restaurants from adding additives to food and drink — a policy change the city made with little or no public notification.

"Restaurants in New York City are not permitted to add anything to food or drink that is not approved as safe to eat. 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 health department spokeswoman said.

Eater notes that when a bakery was ordered to stop selling CBD-infused cookies and pastries, its owners called the health department and claimed that two staffers at the department couldn't explain what was wrong and apparently didn't even seem to know what CBD was.

Eater also notes a similar issue taking place in Maine. State health officials there are saying that CBD has not been approved to as a food additive and cannot be sold in cookies and snacks.

However, in both states, it's largely legal to sell and consume the CBD oil itself (or to vape it). So these health departments are just imperiously acting as though something magical happens when it gets put into food or drink.

The argument here is particularly nannyish—they're saying that people who want to put CBD into food have to prove to health agencies that it's safe. Freedom should require the exact opposite: If the Health Departments wants to forbid businesses from adding an ingredient to food, shouldn't the onus be upon them to prove that it's not safe?

This blanket ban has the potential to harm the bottom lines of many restaurants and bakeries attempting to survive in a tough marketplace and capitalize on current trends. It's a knee-jerk, intrusive response to something that might just be a flash-in-the-pan gimmick anyway.

NEXT: New Jersey Slaps Criminal Penalties on Gun Manufacturing Instructions

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  1. Imagine if soda pop was invented today. Think you would be allowed to sell it?

    1. Gasoline? Are you CRAZY?????

    2. Neither aspirin nor acetaminophen would be approved if submitted to the FDA today.

  2. And then there’s the matter that the Drug Enforcement Administration believes it’s all illegal because marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug.

    Bingo. Until this is rectified the foolishness will just keep compounding itself.

    1. Oh good one — this guy actually wants us to believe that he believes that a mere rule change will somehow stop this foolishness from compounding itself!

  3. people who say it helps calm them and relieve stress. Whether this is actually true or just marketing nonsense remains to be seen

    Take 25 mg or so of CBD and tell me you don’t want to take it easy or even take a nap. It’s great if you have trouble getting to sleep.

  4. Ah the left.

    Kill a baby = ok.

    Someone making the choice to ingest something into their own body… no no. Can’t have that freedom.

    1. mjs_28s . . . Please, name one right-leaning politician since Nixon (pretty sure NOT a Liberal) who has endorsed legalizing drugs. You have a valid point about the cognitive dissonance between the abortion debate and the case for legalizing drugs, but unlike abortion, the drug war is supported by both sides of the aisle.

      1. To be clear, I believe abortion should be legal. I just think it’s incredibly hypocritical that “my body, my choice” should only apply to such a small portion of the population.

  5. Apparently this theoretically is a question of fact, as it is for FDA: whether it is generally accepted as safe by qualified experts. In practice that means FDA anppoints a panel that decides it, but theoretically it could be a survey of experts anyone could assemble.

    1. There are NO ‘experts’ because researching mj has been illegal for more than half a century. The FDA has been a farce in this regard, simply because of Schedule I. The only ‘experts’ I know of are the people who’ve used mj for decades, who cannot come out of that closet because they’d be arrested for admitting to a crime. Harry Anslinger’s legacy lives on ~ that Hollywood movie producer whose eventual government sinecure led to mj’s criminalization (& started the U.S. War on Drugs that Nixon solidified). His film “Reefer Madness” is still believed as truth by many Americans who refuse to let the scales drop from their eyes. For ‘professional’ mj experts, we have to turn to Israel & Western Europe, which are ultimately more progressive in R&D than this country will ever be. The nanny state that protects us from mj somehow has no problem poisoning us all by allowing things like BigAg’s glycosphate & neonics to infiltrate our food chain. Somehow ‘they’ don’t have to prove their products are harmful before FDA approval. That’s because peer-reviewed studies don’t seem to matter (or even be commissioned); the FDA’s budget doesn’t allow for its own studies, so manufacturer-supplied ‘studies’ are accepted as ‘true’ because no third-party studies seem to be affordable. So that just leaves the FDA accepting manufacturers’ ‘word’ that their product won’t harm the public. It takes a generation or two for effects to be seen, so …. who has time for that when profit is to be made?

  6. Does the city seriously keep a list of ‘safe’ ingredients to add to foods? Someone should sue the city over this – but only after asking the city to confirm a huge list of food additives (without context) are safe. ie, spices, preservatives, flavor enhancers, etc… and make a 50+ page list, submit it to the city, and ask which are safe. Include some obvious no-nos in there, randomly scattered at ~1/page starting on page 10. (The less comprehensible the name the better).

    If the city insists on certifying *all* food additives as safe, make them enforce it. Watch government dysfunction that follows.

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