Can Restaurants Use CBD?

If it feels like you are seeing CBD everywhere, it is because you are. From cookies and desserts to lattes and cocktails, and anything in between, incorporating CBD into menus is a hot new thing. With CBD at the intersection of three rapidly growing consumer trends — the anxiety economy, the cannabis industry, and the healthy living revolution — the popularity of this trend comes as no surprise. However, questions remain about the legality of the use of CBD in food and drinks. Regulations are hazy at best, leaving restauranteurs and business owners wary of serving CBD infused drinks and dishes.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a non-psychoactive, naturally occurring compound that can be found in both the marijuana and hemp plants. The cannabis compound found in CBD is a close relative to THC, its psychoactive counterpart that is not yet legal for recreational use across the United States.

Touted as CBD a remedy for pain, anxiety, depression, acne, insomnia, and more, CBD has taken the country, particularly the food industry, by storm. That said, CBD is not federally approved meaning that the safety and quality of the product are not verified

Is CBD Legal?

While CBD can be found in both marijuana and hemp, it is most often derived from the latter. Under federal law, hemp is legal and no longer a controlled substance thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. This technically makes CBD legal, however, it is not legal to sell in food products, unless stated otherwise by your local or state legislation. Likewise, it is not legal to sell as a supplement with unsubstantiated claims such as pain relief.

On whether or not CBD is legal to sell, the administration says:

“It depends, among other things, on the intended use of the product and how it is labeled and marketed. Even if a CBD product meets the definition of “hemp” under the 2018 Farm Bill, it still must comply with all other applicable laws, including the FD&C Act.

We are aware that state and local authorities are fielding numerous questions about the legality of CBD. There is ongoing communication with state and local officials to answer questions about requirements under the FD&C Act, to better understand the landscape at the state level, and to otherwise engage with state/local regulatory partners.”

State and Local CBD Laws and Regulations

States and local authorities ultimately have the say in whether or not CBD can be included in their menus. Each state and municipality have their own stance on how this substance can be used and sold, but across the country there are some underlying trends.

California and Massachusetts have both deemed it illegal to add CBD to food products but are working to make it legal to sell CBD infused foods and beverages. Missouri faced a similar problem, ultimately clearing the way for CBD in alcoholic drinks but leaving the question of CBD in non-alcoholic beverages and foods open. And the confusion does not stop on the state level.

Despite push back from city council members, New York City banned CBD in foods and beverages in 2019. Fines are enforced for those who do not comply, inspectors are permitted to embargo any CBD products found on a restaurant’s premises, and an establishment’s letter grade may be lowered. When the city chose to issue a policy, they shifted CBD out of a legal gray area.

To decide whether CBD is right for your business, first check on your state’s policies. If they condemn or explicitly allow CBD infused food and drink, then you have your answer. If there is an absence of rules, then it is a little trickier. Restaurants can take the risk and decide to incorporate CBD into their menu, but it is important to stay up to date on laws and regulations to avoid finding themselves in sudden violation of a new rule. In these cases, it is ultimately up to restaurants.