NYC Restaurants and the CBD-Infused Menu Trend

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a non-psychoactive, naturally-occurring compound with many purported health benefits. The cannabis compound is a close relative to THC, its psychoactive counterpart that is still illegal in most U.S. states. CBD has taken the country, and particularly the food industry, by storm. Its reputation as a remedy for pain, anxiety, depression, acne, insomnia is well-documented. However, it is not federally regulated and scientists still aren’t entirely sure how it works and its safety is still not officially validated.

Health, Anxiety, and Cannabis in NYC

In New York City, CBD-infused products are available at hundreds of restaurants like By Chloe, Van Leeuwen, and Wild Son. You can purchase anything from CBD-infused chocolate chip cookies to CBD-infused lattes. Even dog treats with CBD are available at pet stores throughout the city. The pervasiveness and popularity of this trend come at no surprise. CBD stands at the intersection of three rapidly growing consumer trends: the anxiety economy, the cannabis industry, and the healthy living revolution.

Furthermore, the legality of CBD is a bit hazy. According to the New York City Department of Health, CBD is not “safe as a food additive.” It can be sold on its own, but not laced in with food. A New York DOH spokesperson remarked that “restaurants in New York City are not permitted to add anything to food or drink that is not approved as safe to eat,” and “until cannabidiol is deemed safe as a food additive, the department is ordering restaurants not to offer products containing CBD.”

The Department of Health Embargo

Starting in January of 2019, inspectors began to embargo products. This pressured restaurants to stop offering products, but not with the threat of confiscation. So far, city officials have begun enforcement with five restaurants to end CBD food and drink sales. One of the first victims of this initiative: Fat Cat Kitchen of Gramercy Park.

Co-owner C.J. Holm describes the situation as “crazy,” claiming that the DOH staffers were unable to “even intelligently explain what the problem was.” Upon learning that she could sell CBD oil, but not include it in her food, she remarked that “it makes no sense.”

Prepare Your Menu and Staff

What’s more, the DOH has yet to implement citywide enforcement. Many restaurants, bars, and cafes have yet to receive an embargo order. However, the Health Department says that restaurants will now be alerted about the embargo and it will be rolled out across the city. If you are planning on adjusting food or drinks on your menu, tread lightly. Although you will not face arrest, you may experience strong pushback from the health department.