Denver Pet CBD Company Expands Into Europe

Pet Releaf co-founder and president Stephen Smith
Pet Releaf co-founder and president Stephen Smith Courtesy of Pet Releaf
Although CBD is still lucrative, its glow has worn off a little over the past two years — for humans, at least. Animals are still a very new market, with pet owners constantly looking for ways to make older or anxious animals feel more comfortable.

The $125 million CBD pet market is expected to grow by nearly 60 percent over the next six years, and one Denver company has a strong head start. Pet Releaf, a CBD pet food and wellness company founded by Stephen and Alina Smith and Chelsea Gennings, has placed products with over 7,000 retailers across the country, and they're now sold online in Europe after the company recently inked a deal with e-commerce platform Alphagreen.

We caught up with Stephen Smith, president and co-founder of Pet Releaf, to learn more about what's next for CBD and animals, if zoos are buying into the hype, and more.

Westword: How much has the science around CBD and animals progressed over the last few years?

Stephen Smith: There have been significant advancements in research behind CBD from across the industry. As consumer demand continues to grow, so does the need for more information. It's critical that the industry continues to provide current and relevant scientific data to its consumers. As an example, over the last year, we hosted a field study surrounding the indication of severe mobility with our SENTESA Tri-active Formula CBD Capsules. In this 28-day, multi-site, randomized, controlled field study in dogs with a confirmed diagnosis of severe mobility issues, we gathered new data on safety and efficacy. In addition, pet parents reported significant improvements in their dogs’ happiness, calmness, mobility and energy. Many veterinarians are looking for sound research and data to be able to recommend CBD to their patients, so we wanted to ensure that when it comes to Pet Releaf, everyone feels comfortable in offering our brand.

When it comes to animals, what ailments are broad-spectrum CBD best used for? What about full-spectrum CBD? Or is one preferred over the other?

We believe in using full-spectrum CBD in all our products. The hemp crop provides hundreds of phytocannabinoids that mimic the receptor ports in our bodies. Each and every cannabinoid featured in the hemp plant may offer additional benefits, and when you have all of the cannabinoids working together with CBD, you are left with a more consistent and efficacious result. Scientists refer to full spectrum as the “entourage effect.” Think of this as strength in numbers! When you start removing some of those key players, it becomes broad spectrum. Not only do you have to use heat and chemicals to remove those cannabinoids, but it becomes less effective due to fewer cannabinoids working to tackle the ailment.

Are zoos and animal sanctuaries using CBD yet?

Yes, there are many recent stories about zoos and sanctuaries offering CBD to their animals; most recently, there was a story about a zoo offering it to their elephants in Poland. We also are seeing more farmers using it on livestock, from their cows all the way down to their chickens. In recent months, we have partnered with a few zoos across the nation, because oftentimes as pet owners themselves, zookeepers have become more comfortable with the use of CBD on their own animals and see the benefits it has provided them. In addition to this, the use of CBD among horses has continued to see significant growth, since so many horses may also benefit from a supplement that can promote calmness and support joint discomfort. Beyond traditional house pets like dogs and cats, most mammals’ endocannabinoid systems function very similarly, and they can receive the same benefits of CBD.

You just made a big partnership in Europe. Hemp has been around Europe a lot longer than it's been in America, but what about CBD? How far along is CBD in Europe, and how educated are consumers over there?

Much like in the U.S., there is significant momentum when it comes to CBD and the understanding of the natural benefits that CBD provides. Consumers have access to all of the same data and research as U.S. consumers, and we have been seeing a significant uptick in demand for the product all across Europe. When it comes to the pet side of things, there is still a lot of education to be done in Europe, which is why we are excited to be one of the trailblazers in this market given our longstanding reputation of always providing the highest-quality, effective products. We look forward to educating the European consumer even more on the benefits of our products as we continue to expand across the entire region.

Being based in Denver as the rest of the world opens up to hemp and CBD, where do you see Colorado fitting into the global market as the hemp trade grows?

Colorado being one of the early adopters when it comes to hemp and CBD means we continue to make advancements and major strides in not only production and manufacturing, but we are continually blazing trails for the entire country and world. Many states and countries are looking to our state to innovate and help advance their efforts when it comes to regulatory matters. In addition, I sit on the U.S. Hemp Roundtable Board of Directors, so we are always up to speed on key regulations and restrictions not only in the U.S., but on a global level. As the rest of the world opens up, I see this having a significant impact on the growth of our industry and economy in Colorado.

All CBD companies talk about consumer education, but that's usually in reference to humans. Is it harder to educate consumers on CBD for animals? What are some differences?

We are lucky that pet parents truly care about what they are putting into their pets' bodies. We often hear the phrase “My pet is healthier than me." Because our pets cannot speak to us, pet parents take more precautions prior to introducing something new to their companion, potentially over the measures they take for themselves. At Pet Releaf, we pride ourselves on providing full transparency and taking time to talk with the customer so they know what benefits our products have to offer to their pets.

Speaking of needing some education: Let's say I'm in a pinch and run out of my human CBD tincture. Can I steal some of my dog's?

The inspiration of Pet Releaf came from our dog, Mattie. As she grew older, she was naturally experiencing some mobility and discomfort issues. When the pharmaceuticals failed her, we wanted to find a holistic and safe alternative to the prescribed drugs with crazy warning labels and unpronounceable ingredients that I wouldn’t feel safe putting in my own body. It was important to our family that if we are giving something to our companion, it should also be safe to take ourselves. I myself along with our entire team and many of our consumers also take Pet Releaf. Our products are organically farmed, safely extracted and paired with human-grade ingredients.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell