U.S. veterans are being denied certain GI Bill benefits for working cannabis industry jobs in states that have legalized marijuana.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) does not consider working in the cannabis industry to be "stable and reliable" employment, Roll Call reported last week. As a result, the department is denying home loans to veterans who work cannabis industry jobs.
"The idea that people who served this country are being denied home loans for finding employment in a rapidly growing industry is preposterous," says Laila Makled, advocacy committee chair for the National Cannabis Festival. "After all our service members have sacrificed, how can we penalize them for working in their state's legal economy?"
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) learned of the VA policy after reading a letter sent to her office by a constituent. Upon looking into it, she found that the reason for the denials is that the VA would risk prosecution under federal anti-money laundering statutes if they approved the loans, Clark's office told Roll Call.
In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, Clark and 20 more members of Congress said they were writing to express concern with the VA's "denial of loan guarantees to veterans who derive their income from state-legalized cannabis activities" and asked for clarification on the department's policy by June 22.
"A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in this industry, and in coming years that number is likely to further rise," the lawmakers said in the letter. "The VA must acknowledge this reality and ensure veterans who work in this sector are able to clearly understand and can equitably access the benefits they've earned."
"We fully understand the VA's resulting aversion to legal and financial risk," the letter states. "Denying veterans the benefits they've earned, however, is contrary to the intent Congress separately demonstrated in its creation of VA benefit programs."
Barron's recently reported on a veteran losing military pension benefits over his work in the cannabis industry. After 11 years of active duty service and combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, retired U.S. Army Major Tye Reedy has "been stripped of his U.S. Army pension," Barron's reported. "The reason? After retiring from active duty, the father of two went to work for… a cannabis company."
The Army told Reedy that his employment "bring[s] discredit upon the U.S. Military Academy and the Army" and that "a military officer working in the cannabis industry runs contrary to Army values."