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Hemp to hand sanitizer: Alabama veteran’s business adapts to meet coronavirus demand

The employees of On Duty USA have ceased making CDB oil and are instead turning out hand sanitizer by the pallet to meet demand created by the requirements of life in a pandemic.

With an office in Birmingham and a manufacturing facility in Kentucky, On Duty USA was founded by Alabamian and U.S. Navy veteran Greg Keeley. The company has now operated for more than a year producing CDB oil which it has marketed specifically to ailing veterans.

In recent weeks, On Duty USA has sought to meet the new demands of its customers and better equip Americans to fight the coronavirus.

“When the COVID-19 outbreak happened, we filled a need for consumers,” Keeley told Yellowhammer News. “Although we sell a lot of CBD oil online, we put a lot of focus on retail sales, too, so it made sense to do something else. We thought, ‘let’s do the right thing and make something that can help people.’ So we repurposed the labs and we’re pumping out thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer every day now. It’s been nuts. We’re selling across the country, to hospital systems, the VA. Our little company in Birmingham and Lexington is all over the place.”

A combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Keeley founded the company out of his own experience dealing with the adverse effects of combat.

“When I came back in 2012 from Afghanistan, I had pretty pronounced PTSD and traumatic brain injury, and I was taking all the drugs the VA gave me for about five years,” he said.

At the urging of his wife, Keeley decided he needed to decrease the amount of medication he was taking. So he went to a PTSD support group, and that’s where he first heard about CBD oil.

He bought some oil from China and other places and none of it worked, according to Keeley. The idea that he should make the product himself began to forumulate. With the help of a friend who is an infectious disease doctor at the University of Kentucky, Keeley began the manufacturing process.

“It worked for me in two days,” he stated. “Within two weeks I ceased taking any other medication. I had been taken six or seven different drugs a day for years.”

One thing that is consistent throughout the business is the involvement of veterans.

“Nearly everyone who works for us is veteran,” he outlined. “They have all served mostly overseas.”

The company began marketing specifically to veterans, as well.

“In the beginning, most of our customers were veterans and first responders, as well as hospital workers and teachers,” explained Keeley. “Our customer base has broadened quite a lot in the last six months. From our perspective, though, our core customers wear uniforms.”

Right now, 100-percent of On Duty USA’s manufacturing is devoted to producing hand sanitizer. Keeley indicated that the company may switch back some production lines later as their CBD oil supply dips.

With all of the hand sanitizer components sourced out of Birmingham, it will likely become a permanent addition to On Duty USA’s product line.

“I think sanitizing will be part of our lives for quite a ways to come,” Keeley observed. “People are going to have it in the entry way of their house for people to use when they visit or when someone comes home. We may scale back at some point, but we will keep producing hand sanitizer for all of our customers and retail customers.”

The company’s commitment to veterans is a big part of the direction Keeley and his partners have decided to pursue.

“Our hand sanitizer production keeps our guys, most of whom are vets, working on the production lines,” Keeley pointed out.

Keeley, who answers questions for veterans and other customers directly from his Instagram account @GregOnDuty, recognizes the fact that his customers are the ones on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.

“Given our customer base of cops and firemen and other first responders who use On Duty, we feel obliged to keep pumping it out as best as we can,” he offered. “One of the things we resolved when we made a decision to do this was that we weren’t going to price gouge folks or be unreasonable with our prices. A lot of people online are charging double what we charge.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia