Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner File Cannabis Reform Bills to Protect Veterans and Immigrants

The cannabis-advocating lawmakers have introduced bills protecting veterans and immigrants participating in the state-legal cannabis industry.

U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have announced the introduction of two bipartisan bills that would provide protections to veterans and immigrants working in their state’s legal cannabis industry.

Protecting Veterans Working in Cannabis

The first bill from Gardner and Warren, one of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, would overturn a current Veterans Affairs (VA) policy that denies home loan applications to military veterans employed in the cannabis industry.

Although more than 30 states have laws permitting marijuana for medical purposes, cannabis is considered illegal at the U.S. federal level. Because of this, the VA is able to deny home loans under the G.I. Bill to veterans who earn income from working in the legal cannabis industry.

“It’s disgraceful that a veteran can be denied a benefit they earned serving our country because they have a job in a legitimate cannabis business,” said Gardner in a press release.

In June, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and 20 other members of Congress urged the VA to clarify its policy after one veteran wrote to Clark asking for help. A month later, the U.S. House passed a bill filed by Clark that would prohibit the VA from denying rights to veterans working in cannabis. The legislation was never taken up by the Senate.

“Veterans have sacrificed so much for this country, but our outdated federal marijuana laws prevent many veterans from getting the loans they need to buy homes,” said Warren. “Our bipartisan bill would ensure that veterans who work in their state’s legal cannabis industry can access VA home loans and realize the dream of homeownership.”

Shielding Immigrants Employed in Cannabis

The second bill from the bipartisan lawmakers would prohibit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from considering a person’s employment in their state-legal cannabis industry as a factor in their application for naturalization.

“No one should have to worry about being denied naturalization for working in their state’s legal cannabis industry,” Warren said in a press release. “Our bipartisan bill would ensure that outdated federal cannabis laws don’t block the pathway to citizenship for those seeking it through naturalization.”

Under current immigration policy, individuals engaged in any type of cannabis-related activities, even in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical purposes, are considered to not have the “good moral character” necessary for becoming a citizen.

In April, federal immigration authorities issued a memo clarifying that immigrants working in the legal cannabis industry or using medical marijuana in states where it’s permitted could jeopardize their citizenship bids. Several congressional lawmakers quickly pushed back on the policy.

“Currently 95 percent of Americans are living in states with laws allowing some form of cannabis,” said Gardner. “The dramatically expanded cannabis industry presents real challenges for our nation, and I’m proud to be working with Senator Warren to address these issues.”

Advocates for Cannabis

Gardner and Warren both reintroduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) in April after having originally introduced the bill in 2018.

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