A south-coast vegetarian restaurant has been shut down in the UK for infusing its dishes with CBD cannabis oil. The owners claim that they had been assured less than a year ago by police and trading standards that the products were legal and there wouldn’t be any legal consequences. This is the first UK food business to be shut down for selling CBD infused edibles.
According to Henry Mcdonald at theguardian The Canna Kitchen, in Brighton, has been closed since a police raid happened at the beginning of May. The owners, whose slogan is “let food be thy medicine”, face losing hundreds of thousands of pounds laying off 15 staff members.
Drug reform campaigners have described Sussex police’s actions as “heavy-handed”. Sam Evolution, Canna’s director, said he had evidence that the police and the UK Trading Standards Agency had given him the nudge to go ahead and open a restaurant which sold CBD infused food last July.
Evolution also said that he and his staff had gone out of their way to inform the police about what they were selling. It came as quite a shock when the police raided their restaurant and asked them to shut down.
He stated that they had contacted the Met police via email on 1 July, 2018 in an attempt to verify the official UK legal position on the sale of hemp derived cannabinoid. The response to the email said that as long as they’d made reasonable inquiries and it has been said that they are legal, there are no criminal offence in selling CBD infused edibles. Evolution said they went through a formal procedure just to ensure that they were operating well within the law.
They also made a separate inquiry to the trading standards, who said that as far as they could tell, there were no legal issues associated with the sale of hemp derived CBD products. CBD is not a controlled substance and therefore, available from many large high-street chains which boosted Evolution’s confidence in his restaurant.
In march, a police officer from the Sussex constabulary visited the Canna Kitchen and, according to Evolution, told them “he did not want to interrupt our business”. The officer was even given samples of the CBD food items to take back to the police headquarters for testing purposes.
Evolution said the products taken included legal (lab verified) full spectrum organic CBD oils, capsules, balms, pastes and beauty products. Apart from these, there were CBD based teas, coffees, chocolates, cakes, pet treats, hemp flowers and hemp seeds. After two months, a dozen of officers carried out searches at the restaurant, forced staff to remain in one room for four and a half hours and even ejected customers out of the place.
“I was stunned to learn this in light of our prior full and open cooperation with the police … it felt completely over the top” said Evolution. He added that his business ethos were wholesome, forward thinking, clean and ethical. They had always taken stringent measures to ensure they comply with the letter of law to avoid any unforeseen complications.
Evolution stressed that Canna operated under Home Office guidelines, which stated that hemp derived cannabidiol production containing less than 0.2% of THC (tetra hydro cannabinoid) is legally permissible. THC is a chemical found in marijuana plants which is responsible for causing the high that users experience while they smoke weed. The law officially bans higher traces of THC in any CBD products with a threshold of 0.2% which is safe for consumers.
A Sussex police spokesperson said the 11 May raid was part of an investigation into the “money laundering and supply of Class B drugs” in Brighton. At the shop in Duke Street, a significant quantity of herbal cannabis was seized. On the other hand, Evolution said the enquiry into money laundering had nothing to do with his business and was connected to a raid on other premises in Brighton.
Evolution said that it was industrial hemp that was seized from their Duke street premises, which is legally imported with all taxes and duties paid off well on time. He clarified that he has no relationships with other shop or residence that were raided in the police operation.