VA denies a home loan to a veteran of Mass. for his legal work in marijuana


But in January, as the deal was about to close, he learned that the Veterans Administration had turned down his request for the loan.

The reason? His job: deputy manager of a licensed cannabis store.

“I was accomplishing one of my long-standing goals and then pulling it out from under you at the 11th hour. . . . I was blown away, ”said the veteran, 35, who requested anonymity to protect his military relationship. “It was very frustrating and demoralizing.”

The human experience points to one of the many ways the federal cannabis ban harms veterans who use marijuana or work in the marijuana industry. Veterans who find medical relief from the weed say they suffered a loss of benefits – which the VA denies – or have been labeled unemployable. Many others say they are financially overburdened and medically underserved because the VA does not discuss or cover the drug like it does with all other drugs, including opioids.

Veterans who work in the marijuana industry face financial consequences. Retired Army Maj. Tye Reedy, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, lost his military pension for working as director of operations at Acreage Holdings, one of the largest companies in cannabis of the country, according to a Barron’s report.

“A military officer working in the cannabis industry goes against the values ​​of the military,” the military said, according to Barron’s.

After being turned down for his home loan in January, the veteran Revere called his congressman, U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark. Clark was outraged.

“We owe a lot of gratitude to our veterans, but it can’t just be something we say; we have to do it and act on it, ”Clark said this week. “There had been an injustice here.

When Clark’s office contacted the VA, the VA said they did not consider the veteran’s source of income “stable and reliable” enough for a mortgage. The VA also said that if VA employees accepted her income for a loan application, they could be prosecuted for aiding in money laundering, as marijuana is illegal at the federal level.

On May 23, Clark sent a letter, signed by 20 lawmakers, to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie outlining the local veteran’s case and requesting clarification within 30 days on VA policies. The letter says more than 211,000 people work in the legal cannabis trade nationwide, generating $ 11 billion in sales annually.

“A significant number of veterans make a living in this industry, and in the years to come, that number is likely to increase further,” the letter said. “The VA must recognize this reality and ensure that veterans who work in this industry are able to clearly understand and fairly access the benefits they have earned.”

Asked for comment, a VA spokesperson said, “VA values ​​the perspective of lawmakers and will respond directly. “

After receiving the written policies, Clark said, she will “coordinate a legislative response to ensure that veterans receive their benefits.”

Meanwhile, the veteran Revere is looking for a home again. His wife has returned to work. This time, they will include his income in the application and go through a more conventional process without the benefit of the VA home loan.

He loved working in the cannabis industry. After using medical marijuana to free himself from opioids prescribed for chronic pain after both shoulders were injured during a training exercise, the veteran now finds fulfillment in helping clients in his store.

“I was a shell of myself” on opioids, he said. “Cannabis is a revolutionary drug that gives people back their quality of life. “

If only the federal government saw it that way, he said. After all, he said, he has no problem collecting his federal taxes on every paycheque.

“If I worked for a start-up they would see it as safer,” he said. “My shop brings in $ 100,000 a day. What could be safer than that? “

Naomi Martin can be reached at [email protected]

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