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LA Restaurants Could Get In Trouble For Serving CBD-Infused Food and Drinks

A Costa Mesa cafe is in hot water after California regulators recently changed the rules surrounding CBD

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CBD oil
Cannabis oil or CBD
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Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

California restaurants that have been serving cannabidiol, or CBD oil, in foods or cocktails might need to adjust their approach, or quit serving it altogether. On July 6, regulators issued a statement that determined that restaurants and bars are not allowed to serve CBD oil until the federal Food and Drug Administration approves it to be safe. California voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use, and the law went into effect at the beginning of 2018. And though some restaurants have been serving CBD legally, but the law continues to develop in terms of how it’s applied to food establishments.

A Costa Mesa cafe is now embroiled in a struggle with the Orange County Health Department. Two months ago, health department officials confiscated all CBD products at Costa Mesa’s Coffee Dose. The cafe’s owners received a warning: Stop using illegal cannabis ingredients, or pay a fine.

First reported by the Orange County Register, the new rules are causing a massive shift around hemp-derived CBD. CBD is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis, and Coffee Dose’s owners Jeni and Oscar Castro showcased it as a dietary supplement with a CBD-friendly menu.

On July 6, the California Department of Public Health issued a statement that hemp-derived CBD in any food or drink is no longer allowed. In a statement, the department explained the ruling:

“Until the FDA rules that industrial hemp-derived CBD oil and CBD products can be used as a food or California makes a determination that they are safe to use for human and animal consumption, CBD products are not an approved food, food ingredient, food additive, or dietary supplement.”

The new rules affect far more businesses than the Coffee Dose, as many LA restaurants and bars serve CBD cocktails, offer it as a supplement, or add it to menus. Gracias Madre was one of the first LA restaurants to serve CBD cocktails as early as 2016, and Pattern Bar followed suit last year. Bondi Harvest and Moon Juice offer CBD shots in any drink, and at The Spring in Downtown, owners Tony Esnault and Yassmin Sarmadi are staunch believers in CBD. The husband and wife team began serving a CBD power lunch in Downtown beginning in early 2017.

Supporters of the change want order in the burgeoning industry, and believe the “green” explosion has opened the door for too many questionable businesses that use CBD as a gimmick. How will the health department deal with $59 CBD shakes in West Hollywood, or a hemp taco stand in Downtown? It’s unclear at the moment.

And while the Castros bought their CBD from a company that regularly tests its products, it hardly matters, as they feel the pinch. Since removing CBD from their menu, the couple have noticed a 30% decrease in business.