ROCHESTER — Business owners in the city of Rochester are crying foul after being advised that selling cannabidiol-infused foods and drinks is unlawful.
Heather Sondrini is the owner of Puglife Smoke & Vape on North Main Street. She has lost an estimated $500 a month after Jim Grant, director of Rochester’s building, zoning and licensing services, informed her two months ago she could no longer sell CBD gummy bears, CBD lollipops and “hard” candy.
“It’s at least 10 percent of my business and only being here two years, it’s made a huge difference. This is the only city in the state right now doing this,” Sondrini said.
Sondrini can still sell CBD oil, wraps, vapes and oil for pets, but said people prefer the edibles.
“It’s easy, you can pop it in your mouth. You can eat it almost anytime,” Sondrini said.
Sondrini is not the only downtown business affected by the crackdown. Just down the street from Puglife Smoke & Vape, Fresh Vibes has been selling CBD-infused coffee, for almost a year. The owners had plans to add edibles to their menu.
Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive ingredient in hemp and marijuana, has become popular in recent years. Shops throughout the Seacoast region sell CBD products for customers with different health ailments such as arthritis and insomnia.
Recent research at the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai showed CBD could also help treat opioid addiction.
On Tuesday afternoon, officials from the city of Rochester issued a press release to local businesses, saying CBD-infused foods and drinks are banned under federal law and are unlawful under New Hampshire’s Food Protection program.
“Once it came to our attention that these businesses were violating these state regulations, we took corrective action that we believe was appropriate and fair to our businesses,” Grant said in a statement.
Officials say businesses that continue to violate state and federal regulations run the risk of having their food licenses revoked by the Rochester Board of Health.
Not all of the businesses have complied with the request to remove CBD-infused foods and drinks. At the Shell on Washington Street, there are still gummies right next to the cash register.
“One guy came in and was making a big stink, but I told him unless my boss tells me to take it down, I’m keeping it up,” an employee working the cash register said Tuesday.
A petition to Gov. Chris Sununu is being circulated, asking him to sign legislation to allow New Hampshire businesses to sell and serve CBD-infused foods and drinks. Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, has signed similar legislation.
Brightfield Group, an industry analyst, estimated the U.S. CBD market was at $591 million in 2018.
They say the hemp-CBD market could hit $22 billion by 2022.