“Hemp in Onslow” is a multi-part series spotlighting the emergence of the local hemp industry and its potential impact on the veteran community.
When the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder forced U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran Dr. Sam Brake out of a career in chiropractic, a friend urged him to try Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
After two weeks of daily use, he had an epiphany.
“I was washing the dishes and [noticed] I’m singing and I’m smiling,” Brake said, who served with Camp Lejeune’s 2nd Marine Division in the Gulf War. “If you would have known me during all these years you would have said who the hell is this.”
He says CBD changed his stress response and helped him titrate off four of five prescriptions over a six-month span.
“I was almost, like in a millisecond, dissecting a situation methodically, looking at it and saying that’s not a threat, that’s not a problem and immediately getting a sense of calm,” Brake said, who went on to co-found Sana Botanicals.
MORE: What is CBD and why is it on the rise?
A NEW INDUSTRY
In 2017, North Carolina kicked off its Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which monitors and enforces the cultivation of hemp and hemp products. The Tar Heel State now has more than 1,500 licensed growers, according to program manager Paul R. Adams III, and more than a dozen growers in Onslow County.
“The pilot program is one of only a few ways that North Carolina farmers and citizens can interact with the industrial hemp industry and the only way that this crop can be grown in our state at this time,” Adams said.
Marijuana is federally illegal, but is the same species (cannabis) as hemp, which has lower amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s psychoactive or mind-altering compound that is restricted to levels of no more than 0.3 percent in North Carolina hemp.
MORE: Experts weigh in on THC vs. CBD
When U.S. Army combat veteran Craig Henderson first entered the cannabis industry, he never thought CBD would be as big as marijuana.
“I was completely wrong,” Henderson said, who is founder and CEO of Extract Labs. “It seems like a lot of people need CBD and want CBD. I think not everyone wants to get high, but people do want to get relief without taking painkillers and other pharmaceutical drugs.”
One drawback of the emerging market is CBD products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has approved a form of CBD medication for treating seizures associated with specific conditions.
“Just because the FDA hasn’t got around to backing this doesn’t mean it doesn’t work,” Henderson said. “The next best thing is to look for reputable companies that actually do lab testing.”
MORE: What you need to know about CBD products
More scientific study is needed, but research has shown CBD could be beneficial.
According to a Healthline review of studies, CBD oil can relieve pain, may reduce inflammation and could reduce anxiety and depression; however, side effects can include diarrhea, changes in appetite and weight, fatigue and interaction with other medications.
Since it’s not FDA-approved, CBD can’t be prescribed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It’s also off limits in the Department of Defense.
One organization advocating for the VA to adopt CBD as a treatment option is Veterans For Cannabis.
“Veterans For Cannabis really exists to fight for choice,” said founder and CEO Joshua Littrell, an Air Force combat veteran. “We want the choice to utilize cannabis as a treatment option through the Veterans Administration.”
Veterans die at a 50 percent greater rate from accidental overdose than civilians, says Littrell, who sees hemp, CBD and cannabis as tools to combat prescription drug dependence.
“If we can help a veteran reduce their pharmaceutical dependency by 20, 30 or 50 percent, why would the VA not support cannabis as a treatment option?,” Littrell said.
Part Two of this series will feature a local hemp business.
Reporter Calvin Shomaker can be reached by email at email@example.com.