Veterans Being Denied Rights Under GI Bill if They Work in Cannabis

Members of Congress have given the VA 30 days to clarify its policy on denying VA’s loan programs to veterans working in the cannabis industry.

A letter signed by 21 members of Congress urges the Department of Veteran Affairs to clarify its policy on denying home loans to veterans employed in the marijuana industry.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) led the charge of lawmakers concerned about the VA’s practice of denying rights to veterans, who under the GI Bill are to receive home loans backed by the VA.

According to a Roll Call news report, Rep. Clark first learned of the VA’s practice of denying home loans for veterans in the cannabis industry from a constituent who wrote her asking for help. According to the article, the VA replied back to the constituent that it “considered working in cannabis to be insufficiently ‘stable and reliable,” a confusing reply for a veteran who lives in Massachusetts, a state that has legalized recreational and medical marijuana.

The May 23 letter seeking explanation from the VA was from Clark and 20 other lawmakers, including one Republican (Don Young, Alaska), and was addressed to the Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert Wilkie, with a request for a reply within 30 days. The congressional members asked for detailed information about the VA’s loan program, if veterans employed in the cannabis industry were also at risk of being denied eligibility in other VA programs, and lastly an assurance that the VA will begin the process of clarifying their procedures to the public.

“The VA has not issued any policies or guidance on this topic, leaving veterans with no way to clearly and readily understand whether their choice of legal employment in this industry could result in the denial of the benefits they earned,” the letter stated.

Also acknowledged in the letter is the growing number of cannabis industry employees in the U.S. The letter states that more than 200,000 Americans are employed by the industry, including many veterans.

“A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in this industry, and in coming years that number is likely to further rise,” the letter stated.

The full letter was released to Roll Call, an online publication covering White House politics, and can be seen here.

The group of congress members are not the only ones concerned about the VA’s policies. In May, the House Appropriations Committee made a similar request to the VA, requesting public clarification on their home loan denial to veterans in the cannabis industry. The committee gave the VA 180 days to reply.

Medical Marijuana and Veterans

Currently, medical marijuana has been legalized in 32 states and Washington, D.C. The relationship between medical marijuana and veterans has become a pressing topic in the U.S. Between 11 and 20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but they are not allowed to obtain medical marijuana certificates from VA physicians, even in states where medical marijuana is legal. PTSD is a common qualifying condition in states with medical marijuana programs.

Medical Marijuana, Inc. reported in February on a new survey that showed veterans overwhelmingly support medical cannabis. The survey found 83 percent of military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan believe medical marijuana should be legal.

More Cannabis News

To find more articles about medical marijuana and veterans, or to stay up to date on the latest state and federal legislation, visit our news page.