Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental. In an effort to lower opioid intake, some veterans are turning to hemp products, like , to treat chronic pain and PTSD. Now some veterans are saying they want more research and access, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.
They are not your typical lobbyists. They're veterans whose lives were nearly ruined — first by their injuries, and then by their meds.
"I was at a higher than likely rate of committing suicide from pain," Navy veteran Veronica Wayne told lawmakers. She took opioids for 17 years after an airplane maintenance hatch hit her head.
"I basically became a walking zombie," Wayne said.
She tried medical marijuana, but still felt impaired. That's when she heard about hemp.
"It'll still kill all the pain symptoms and give you the relief that you need, but you're not going to feel high," Wayne said.
Now she uses CBD oil. But, she notes, "You can't get it from the VA. It's not, it's not legal."
Like marijuana, hemp is derived from the cannabis plant. But hemp does not contain THC, the chemical that makes you high. Still both hemp and marijuana are classified as Schedule 1 controlled substances, restricting the VA and other federally funded entities from conducting research. The American Legion is leading the push to change that.
"Anything that makes a veteran feel better — especially something that's non-toxic — is something we're going to support," said Louis Celli, national director of Veterans Affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion.
Currently hemp products are marketed as unregulated supplements, which makes many doctors reluctant to recommend them.
"We're not exactly sure how to use them, what the right dose is, how they interact," said Wayne Jonas, the former director of the NIH office of alternative medicine.
But lawmakers on both sides are pushing to change the law.
"I'm actually cautiously optimistic if we get something on the floor, that it will pass," Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said.
Until then, Army reservist Dale Rider said many of his buddies are wary of the product that he said helps his back pain.
"For them, they're all worried that because it's so closely related to marijuana, that it could pop up on a drug test randomly," Rider said.
The industry has a powerful ally in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, where hemp is seen as a potential cash crop. Last month he introduced a bill in the Senate that has bipartisan support to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity.