Snake oil or cure-all? Inside the budding CBD industry

CBD became the "it" product of 2019 and believers, including a veteran and soccer star Megan Rapinoe, tout it as a benefit, but there is little regulation and plenty of unknowns with these products.
9:48 | 12/04/19

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Transcript for Snake oil or cure-all? Inside the budding CBD industry
Reporter: For sergeant Ben hayhearst, this is peace. There is great therapy in using your hands. Reporter: The journey of one of his knives. Through the fire, cracked and beaten, only to emerge stronger and with new purpose. Parallel to his own. I was an army infantryman, deployed in 2004 to 2005 to sadr city, Iraq. Reporter: Hayhearst and his unit part of the siege of sadr city, now infamously known as "Black Sunday." There were 19 of us in four humvees who were hit. A lot of us believed we not going to get out of there. I got hit. It was chunks of concrete and I figured we would die. Reporter: He found comfort in dependence with opiates. He became lost until a plant and three letters. CBD, helped him live also life again. Do you think all of this would have been possible if you never got off those pain meds and onto I was in a bad place on the pain meds, on and off suicidal. Without that change, I don't know that I would be here. Reporter: He now lives with his family in Washington. He takes CBD oil with his coffee every morning. I notice it throughout my whole body. The pain level just drops. Reporter: CBD. You might say it's marijuana's friendly cousin and the "It" product of 2019. If you feel like you've seen those three letters everywhere, you probably have. The CBD market is predicted to reach $20 billion by 2024. We're taking you inside the CBD craze. From the fields to the facilities. Meeting some of the pioneers of the booming industry along the way. I try to use CBD as much as possible. Reporter: Skeptics are calling it snake oil, while believers are calling it a cure-all, but there's one big question we want to start with. What exactly is it? It's canabadiol. It's one of the chemicals in cannabis plants. Reporter: The jury's still out on what it exactly does. But we do know it can affect transmitters in the brain. For example it modulates serotonin that we know is important for anxiety and mood and impacts on inflammatory processes, even in immune-related systems in the brain. Reporter: It is in marijuana and hemp, both forms of cannabis. The difference, hemp has less than .3% thc and doesn't get you high. Last year, president trump signed the bill opening the door for the CBD boom. But where does it come from? Hayhearst uses the brand called war fighter. We traveled to Colorado to meet agronomist Damian Farris. Warfighter works for those who have PTSD or are trying to get off of opiates. Reporter: He runs a commercial hemp company. We joined him for a tour of one of the largest organic hemp farms in the country to find out how CBD goes from this to this. We're in Wellington, Colorado, and I'm surrounded by 600 acres of industrial hemp. It's where over 40 brands are supplied with the product. How does it go from being a plant like this to actually a tincture on a shelf? After we plant and grow the hemp, the next key step is harvesting it. Reporter: This is just the starting point. This is just the starting point. Reporter: It's late in the season. The green flowers have dried and are ready for harvest. So Damian let us take a ride. I got it, I got it. Reporter: Sweet. That's green rush. Reporter: The green rush. We just got out of the combine where they finished harvesting a bunch of the hemp. Now it will be sent to processing, where the CBD is going to be extracted. The hemp buds and flower comes in wet here. We're doing about 2,000 pounds an hour of dried material output. Reporter: As far as processing facilities go, how large is this one? We're probably in the top three in the United States. This whole facility was not even here a year ago. Reporter: Then it's off to their facility in Boulder for mixing and packaging. You have to have the test done. What we're using and how much CBD and thc is in it. Then we dilute it down to the .3% per thc. Reporter: Moist CBD products even from hemp have trace amounts of thc which can be a major turnoff for some, especially people tested for work. It's something Megan rapinoe grapples with. There's certain periods in competition that thc is banned but CBD is legal. Everything you put in your body is your responsibility. That's the blanket disclaimer. Reporter: That's why she joined her twin sister to start a thc-free line of products designed specifically with pro-athletes in mind. Megan uses CBD as a part of her recovery process. So you're taking CBD for more than just pain. Yeah, I look at it as an overall approach to health in my life. Reporter: For her sister Rachel, it's a chance to change the game and how athletes manage their pain. You know, it became very clear to me, after using CBD for three years, this stuff works, and we need to do a better job as a society of taking care of our athletes. So my solution was to start a company. Reporter: The industry's sort of the wild, wild west, how do you navigate it? Some of us are trying to do it the right way. As the fda comes out with more regulations we hope it will weed the bad eggs out many. Reporter: Companies like hers and warfighter say they're taking it upon themselves to ensure quality, sending it to third-party labs like this one for testing. There's such a large range of the very bad companies not really caring what they put in the CBD, and those who don't even have CBD. The public have to do their own due diligence because regulations have not been strong enough. Reporter: As it stands, the fda has only approved it for two rare forms of child epilepsy. Other than that, the fda has not approved CBD for any indication. Why? Research is needed. Reporter: They put out a disclaimer. I don't think it can alleviate many symptoms. There's never been a wonder drug, but can CBD help on certain conditions for certain disorders? Absolutely, but we need more clinical trials to be able to give the fda evidence for them to make the decision about. Reporter: But folks like the rapinoes, sergeant hayhearst and Farris are undoubtedly believers and can't wait to see what's next. I hoped and dreamt that it would be this large and as exciting to see that people are starting to understand and seeing the benefits of CBD and all the other cannabinoids that we are just learning about. Reporter: What do you have to say to people who say it doesn't work? I would say try it first. It's not going to do every single thing, but I think that there are a lot of like very tangible benefits. Reporter: There's such little research done on CBD, does that concern you? I think about it. It doesn't bother me as much. All I see the positive benefits. Reporter: It's almost 15 years since you were discharged. How is sergeant Ben hayhearst doing now. Better every day. Whatever happened in my past, those memories will never go away. Still deal with daily pain, but the main thing for me is just anxiety. I feel like that will always somewhat be there, but I feel like I'm learning to deal with it through, you know, CBD and therapy. And just learning to accept myself for who I am. I got out of the military when I was 27. I've essentially been retired since. Those first years were rough, and I wasn't much of a husband or father. Since I've started to get a handle on things, I'm 41 and retired, so I have all the time in the world to spend with my kids and my wife and to do, you know, the things that I want to do with them. And I wouldn't trade that for the world.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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