CBD is the latest product taking the United States by storm, and chances are you’ve probably already heard about it by now.
The CBD market has grown so much that it has drawn in everyone from U.S. senators to multi-billion-dollar companies – and the veteran community, where it already has a huge following of vets who use the product to help with PTSD.
Even Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soda company, released a statement earlier this year saying it is closely watching the growth of CBD “as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world,” leading to speculation of a future CBD-infused drink.
The CBD market is expected to grow to $22 billion by 2022 – an astronomical growth compared to its expected $591 million this year.
Many people already swear by CBD’s pain-relieving, anxiety-relieving properties, delivered without a “high” or any psychoactive effects on body functions. There are veterans who say it has helped them deal with anxiety and PTSD more than anything they can get prescribed by the VA or a doctor.
The CBD market is growing at an unprecedented rate, and Congress is on the cusp of sending legislation to President Donald Trump’s desk that would, among other things, legalize commercial hemp production and hemp products on a federal level.
CBD is derived from hemp plants, but commercial hemp and hemp products are not currently legal on a federal level in the United States. But that hasn’t stopped the market’s meteoric rise due to federal agencies looking the other way.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky – where hemp farming has roots dating back to pioneer times – has been the hardest driving force to legalize hemp and hemp products for the past several years.
McConnell told American Military News, “For far too long, the federal government has prevented most farmers from growing hemp. I have heard from many Kentucky farmers who agree it’s time to remove the federal hurdles in place and give our state the opportunity to seize its full potential and once again become the national leader for hemp production. That’s why I was proud to introduce legislation in the Senate to finally and fully legalize industrial hemp.”
McConnell sponsored a bill called the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 that would legalize and remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances in the U.S. This list includes cannabis, heroin and MDMA, or ecstasy.
The senator has been speaking passionately about hemp farming for years and has even hashtagged “#HempFarmBill” in light of the recent pending legislation. He previously sponsored the hemp pilot program in the 2014 Farm Bill.
“In collaboration with agriculture leaders in Kentucky and throughout the nation, I utilized my position as Senate Majority Leader and as a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee to secure language in the 2014 Farm Bill to authorize hemp research pilot programs,” he told American Military News.
“By legalizing hemp and helping farmers, we can continue to see growth in new and innovative products made with Kentucky-grown hemp across our state and the nation. This is our chance to continue to help our agricultural economy and put more Kentucky-made products on the market. Kentucky’s farmers are some of the best in the world, and this legislation will give them the option to enjoy the full benefits of this versatile crop with a long and rich history in our Commonwealth,” McConnell added.
What is CBD
CBD, or cannabidiol, was discovered in 1940, and it is one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in hemp plants. CBD products such as oils, candies, topical lotions and sprays have increasingly popped up in the marketplace and are methods by which CBD can be ingested or absorbed by the body.
Unlike marijuana products, CBD does not give a “high” or intoxicating effect such as that caused by THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid. There’s also a big difference between CBD and medical marijuana, which has varying degrees of psychotropic effects that affect executive functions.
CBD is known to have non-psychoactive effects, and it is said to help relieve pain, reduce anxiety and depression, relieve cancer-related symptoms, reduce acne and could help heart health, among other things.
We spoke with several veterans who have experience using CBD oil, specifically to treat PTSD.
U.S. Army veteran Mike Stedman said he was taking anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills for PTSD after he got out of military in March 2017.
A friend recommended CBD oil to him, so he tried it.
“I tried and it said ‘wow, it’s actually really good,’” Stedman, 24, recently told American Military News.
He has been taking it for about a year and six months, Stedman said, and he orders it online.
“When I wasn’t taking it, I had really bad anxiety and was constantly on the alert. I’d go out to public places and it was too much,” Stedman explained.
“I started taking it, and everything calmed down. I’m more tolerable in public places. I love flying again. I used to hate being in planes with other people,” he said.
“The good thing about CBD is, it doesn’t get you high or anything. You have THC and CBD [from hemp] – there are two compounds. THC gets you high, but CBD is what helps you relax and takes your nerves away, makes you calm,” Stedman explained.
Plus, you don’t get addicted to CBD oil, he pointed out.
“I think it would be a really good opportunity for veterans,” Stedman said. “I think [having easier access to CBD oil] would have a really great impact, especially with easing the tensions with the VA. It would be easier to get. What if they can’t get pills or medicine they’re prescribed at the time? They can just get CBD as an alternative.”
U.S. Army veteran Tom Coffe initially started using CBD oil as part of a clinical trial, and it has made a big difference in his everyday life and dealing with PTSD.
“It just makes your day better. It takes all that bullsh*t that clutters up your brain and it compartmentalizes it for you,” Coffe recently told American Military News.
“It’s not a cure-all. It’s not magic, it’s not going to make you go from being a lunatic to … normal. But it does help. It helps quell the need for urgency, the desire for chaos, the ridiculousness at all times,” he explained.
Coffe, 37, started taking CBD to help with PTSD after serving in the Army for nearly six years.
“The VA wants to shove pills down your throat. You go in and talk to them for 15 minutes, and you get three different types of medicines that alter your brain functions and have bad side effects. CBD doesn’t do that,” he pointed out.
“I think it would help a lot of vets. There’s a lot of guys out there who are trying to make things work in their life. I think CBD oil is a step in the right direction,” Coffe said.
While he doesn’t know if it will ever be completely accepted in the mainstream, it’s important that other veterans might have access to it more easily than they do now. Plus, hopefully the stigma associated with using CBD could be combated.
“There are people who are addicted to pain killers like oxycontin, but they’re not ‘drug addicts’ because they got it from a doctor,” Coffe pointed out while explaining how people who use CBD are often mislabeled as “hippy potheads.”
“It’d be nice if it became a mainstream thing,” he added.
Natalie Anne Bilski, 32, is a disabled combat veteran who has PTSD. She served in the U.S. Navy for six years, including three deployments, and was honorably discharged in 2011.
She looked into CBD after being prescribed other medications that had ill side effects. She decided to start with a CBD-infused drink.
“You don’t feel anything, no magical change in attitude or internal feelings – at first,” Bilski recently told American Military News. “The changes are more noticed as after thoughts or random in the moments where you question why you’re suddenly feeling so good.”
“I think it took me a couple days before I noticed,” she continued. “I noticeably felt less pain in my joints and was able to get up and move around a lot more, not to mention the increased amount of energy I had, as well as motivation to do things.”
“I was also very noticeably happy, almost silly like my old self before my military service,” she pointed out. “This was a huge change for me, because PTSD has plagued me with deep anger, anxiety and paranoia issues, as well as pain throughout my entire body.”
She experimented with going on and off CBD, and the positive effects of taking it were prevalent. The only reason she doesn’t take it consistently is due to the cost, Bilski said.
“I believe legalizing hemp and its related products would definitely open more pathways in research and development, which could potentially lead to it being accepted as a viable treatment for the veteran community on multiple levels,” she said. “I have not experienced anything dangerous or ill side effects from CBD alone, and for it to be opened up to further development could really lead to some great discoveries and refining towards treatments for the mentally ill.”
“From my experience and in discussion with many of my disabled veteran friends, we truly believe this is a safe and healthy method for treatment for a multitude of ailments we face following our military service,” Bilski added.
U.S. Hemp Roundtable is a nonprofit coalition that is the No. 1 industry advocate in the movement to legalize hemp in the U.S.
Hemp Roundtable was launched in early 2017 and is comprised of more than 60 firms and companies in the hemp industry, as well as grassroots organizations in the hemp space. It was originally launched in 2014 in Kentucky in order to support the first Farm Bill, and has since rebranded as the fight to legalize hemp went national.
U.S. Hemp Roundtable General Counsel Jonathan Miller recently told American Military News that the trade association’s No. 1 goal is to lobby for the permanent legalization of hemp at the federal level, and also to help with issues at the state level.
According to its website, “Our goal is to secure passage of bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. Congress that would establish hemp as an agricultural commodity, and permanently remove it from regulation as a controlled substance.”
“We’ve been so lucky to have Senator McConnell as our champion,” Miller said. “He has guaranteed [the pending Farm Bill] will provide the hemp provision. You can’d do better than that.”
The bill might still pass this year, or possibly early 2019, and the U.S Hemp Roundtable is prepared for any upcoming legal battles, Miller said.
Even if the Farm Bill passes, “There’s concern that the FDA might try to restrict products, especially hemp-derived CBD oil,” he noted.
Miller said that more than $100,000 has been spent on the federal level in just a two-year period in the Hemp Roundtable’s efforts to see that hemp is legalized, and that doesn’t include any funds spent on lobbying at the state level.
CV Sciences, out of California, is the maker of the brand +CBDoil (Plus CBD Oil), and it is the No. 1 product provider in the United States for CBD. It is a company with two divisions: one that focuses on pharmaceuticals and another that focuses on consumer products.
According to its website, the Pharmaceutical Division “is developing synthetically‐formulated cannabidiol‐based medicine, pursuing the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for drugs with specific indications utilizing cannabidiol as the active pharmaceutical ingredient.”
The company’s Consumer Products Division “delivers botanical‐based cannabidiol products that enhance quality of life. Currently distributed nationally in health food stores, health care provider’s offices and online, each consumer products brand is backed by a formal safety review, growing body of case reports, and physician’s recommendations,” CV Sciences says.
Farm Bill Progress
At a Farm Bill Conference Committee meeting in September, McConnell expressed eagerness to get his bill passed.
“I’m proud that the Senate passed our version with overwhelmingly bipartisan support (86-11). I hope we’ll continue in good-faith cooperation and send a bipartisan, bicameral bill to the President’s desk that he’ll sign before our deadline at the end of this month,” he said.
The bill has not yet been passed in the House, but there is anticipation that the bill might be passed before Congress breaks for recess mid-December.
“This legislation will fulfill our core responsibilities to America’s producers. It will also make new investments in rural communities, such as expanding broadband access and providing ongoing support in the fight against opioid abuse and substance addiction. And it will empower producers to fully explore growing markets – both here at home and around the world,” McConnell has said.
“It’s no secret I’m particularly excited about the parts of the Senate-passed bill that concern industrial hemp,” he pointed out. “I believe that industrial hemp deserves a comeback, and I think the confusion with its more controversial cousin has largely been eliminated […].”
“American consumers have been buying hemp products for decades. The crop’s proven its usefulness. It’s past time that we build on the work we began with the pilot program in the 2014 Farm Bill and unleash farmers in Kentucky and across the country to grow it right here at home – with proper oversight – so they can capitalize on this multi-billion dollar market,” McConnell added.
Future of Regulation
Dr. Jordan Tishler is the founder, president and CEO of the Association of Cannabis Specialists (ACS) and has practiced for the VA for 15 years. He is a Harvard physician and Cannabis Therapeutics Specialist with more than 23 years of experience. Tishler is also an advisor to the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, a member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society and CEO/CMO at inhaleMD.
Tishler said CBD can help those who experience PTSD.
“PTSD is a horribly debilitating illness that affects millions of Americans including veterans, women and children. A growing medical literature support cannabis as a safe and effective treatment for PTSD that can help people regain control of their lives,” he recently told American Military News. “In my clinical experience, cannabis has been most helpful in regulating sleep patterns and bouts of panic that are at the heart of the problem in PTSD. Addressing these symptoms with cannabis has helped many of my patients lead productive and fulfilling lives again.”
As far as regulation goes, it is “complicated” when it comes to CBD, Tishler said.
“First, despite what anyone tells you, it’s federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA seems not to be interested in pursuing this at the moment. The FDA did go after four companies last year who were selling CBD oil that contained NO CBD, thus they were making false claims,” he explained.
“Beyond that, however, the FDA has not moved to regulate it more closely. Many packages make all sorts of medical or wellness claims that just aren’t proven. States may additionally regulate CBD via their state medical cannabis laws, but most people are buying CBD via the web, so that means no local control and no safety information,” Tishler added.
If the 2018 Farm Bill passes, CBD will be legal across the United States and the treatment landscape for veterans will likely dramatically change.