September 26, 2018

The last thing you need as a pet retailer is to unknowingly sell someone a product that harms their pet. That seems so obvious it shouldn’t even need to be stated, but we’re living in an age when people can’t seem to agree with each other about the basic effects of chemicals that have been around for a long time.

As cannabis-related products gain public acceptance, there are going to be more companies putting cannabis-derived ingredients into products. That presents pet retailers with two concerns:

1. How do you ensure the products you obtain from your suppliers are actually safe for the pets your customers will give them to?

2. How do you ensure they’re legal?

The second question is worth more than a glancing look because not every company that makes pet products is necessarily concerned with the letter of the law on this matter. It’s actually trendy at the moment to flout federal laws and regulations on the subject of marijuana. You don’t want to be buying from one of the companies that indulges in this trend.

Know the difference between a drug and a supplement. The FDA regulates drugs, and while it recently approved its first drug derived from marijuana for human consumption, it has never approved one for consumption by animals.

Supplements are a different story, and this is where you need to know the difference between marijuana and hemp, and between THC and CBD.

THC and CBD are both cannabidiols. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, and it’s the active ingredient in marijuana that gets people stoned. Because the levels of THC are very high in marijuana, it’s strictly regulated and under no circumstances safe for pets to ingest in any way.

Hemp has some THC but in amounts so tiny no one can get high from smoking it or otherwise ingesting it. The main ingredient in hemp is CBD, which is short for cannabidiol. That will make you very relaxed—or downright lethargic if you ingest enough of it—but it won’t get you high or have any other type of psychoactive effects.

There are established companies that make hemp-based pet products. One of them is called Healthy Hemp Pet Products, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they’re open about the products they offer and why they’re different from marijuana-based products.

In a blog post on the company’s website, former CEO Polly Patterson explains:

“The products you buy from Healthy Hemp Pet are made using hemp oil, not marijuana. The products contain phytocannabinoids like CBD, but almost no THC, the primary chemical in marijuana. That’s why our products are called PCR hemp oil products. They are phytocannabinoid rich. But those cannabinoids aren’t the ones associated with being high.

“Our experience with PCR hemp oil products is that they tend to help support healthy joints, reduce stress, and maintain a normal inflammatory response,” she said. “As long as you adhere to dosing guidelines and veterinary advice, the worst thing that will happen is Daisy may get a bit more tired than usual, because she is so relaxed.”

The most effective way to protect yourself is to ask your suppliers if they’re offering any products containing cannabis-based products. If they are, follow up by asking them:

Are they marijuana-based or hempbased? It is unlikely they will tell you they’re marijuana-based, but if they do, don’t stock them and don’t sell them.

What levels of CBD are contained in the pet supplements, and what can they tell you about how they might affect the energy levels of the pets? CBD won’t give a dog hallucinations, but you still want to know what it does so you can answer customer questions.

What has the supplier done to ensure all products comply with statutory and regulatory requirements? You don’t want to have to do this work if you can get them to do it for you, but you also want to make sure they know how to do it in a changing legal and regulatory environment.

And failing that: Check with your legal counsel for any advice on where you might be legally vulnerable. I’m not suggesting you shoot your lawyer with one of those “just a quick question” e-mails, which implies they shouldn’t bill you much or even at all. Lawyers hate those. But legal advice from me is going to be worth exactly what you’re paying for it, so check with the people you pay to keep you out of trouble.

If you sell a product that affects pets in ways their owners are not expecting, you’re going to hear about it. The effect may not be harmful, and that might be the sort of thing you can explain easily if you have the information you need, but customers don’t like surprises. Keep that in mind before you sell them anything, especially if we’re talking about an ingredient that might alarm your customers

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