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Stay on the Right Side of the Law When Selling CBD

When talking about CBD to customers, steer clear of certain words to avoid visits from the authorities.

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ALONG WITH HOLISTIC veterinary practices, independent pet stores are on the front line of alternative and complementary healthcare. Our customers trust and value our opinions and those of our staff. These are relationships we hold dear and want to nurture further — after all, most of us have spent hundreds of hours researching the products on our shelves.

But here’s the thing: We are not licensed veterinarians, and our simple desire to help can cause us problems.

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In each state’s Veterinary Practice Act, certain words have legal meaning. If anyone but a licensed practitioner uses these words, they are considered to be practicing veterinary medicine without a license, which can result in fines and jail time. I myself had a visit from the Rhode Island State Veterinarian because of an anonymous complaint. Thankfully, I was discussing products as I will describe here, and nothing more came from it — but let me tell you, that slight brush with the law made me even more carefully select the words I (and my employees) use with customers.

You may not be surprised by many of the words reserved for licensed veterinarians, such as “cure,” “treat,” “diagnose” and “prescribe.” But did you know that using the word “disease” is a no-no. In fact, even naming a commonly known disease such as arthritis can be construed as giving a medical diagnosis, and doing so should be avoided if you want to stay within the lines of the law. So how then do we describe and sell the purported benefits of CBD to our customers?

It’s actually quite simple: You take the selling out of it and instead educate and inform your customer as to how it may support the body and the bodily systems.

For example:

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  • Instead of saying “Helps with stress or decreases anxiety,” say “May help support a healthy mental state.”
  • Instead of saying “Decreases inflammation or is anti-inflammatory,” say “May support a healthy immune system.”
  • Instead of saying “Helps reduce pain and nerve-related issues,” say “May support a healthy nervous system.”

These are just a few examples, but you can see where I’m going. This type of language still conveys the benefits of the CBD phytocannabinoid, but it keeps you in the role of teacher and away from that of prescriber. You can use this language along with your own anecdotal stories about how it has promoted a state of calmness and supported a relaxed mind in your own dog. Also encourage customers to do additional research on their own. And if you ever don’t feel comfortable answering a question, the best practice is to direct them to the brand manufacturer.

Most of us have experienced firsthand how beneficial CBD — and other supplements, for that matter — can be. Now you can successfully and safely sell them.

Johnna Devereaux is a Clinical Pet Nutritionist and decades-long herbalist. She owns Fetch RI, an award-winning holistic pet store in Richmond, RI, and serves as Director of Nutrition & Wellness for Bow Wow Labs.

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