A rather sad story comes to us out of Massachusetts, once again demonstrating the legal beartraps that have cropped up as marijuana legalization spreads around the country. An Army veteran and his family (who are not being named for reasons that will become obvious) have been shopping for a home for the past couple of years. Housing prices in the Bay State are through the roof, but they finally found one they could afford, largely because the buyer qualified for a guaranteed mortgage via his VA benefits. But shortly before they were about to close on the house he received some unpleasant news. The VA had denied his loan application because he works as a manager at a legal cannabis store and previously used the drug when recovering from injuries sustained in the service. (Boston Globe)
But in January, as the deal was set to close, he learned that the Veterans Administration had denied his loan application.
The reason? His job: assistant manager of a licensed cannabis store.
“I was actually accomplishing a lifelong goal of mine, and then to have it pulled right out from under you at the 11th hour. . . . I was blown away,” said the veteran, 35, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his military relationship. “It was very frustrating and demoralizing.”
The man’s experience highlights one of the many ways that federal cannabis prohibition harms veterans who either consume marijuana or work in the marijuana industry. Veterans who find medical relief from pot say they’ve suffered a loss of benefits — which the VA denies — or have been labeled unemployable.
He’s not the only veteran running into these types of problems. The Globe report also points to retired Army Major Tye Reedy, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who lost his Army pension because he was working as an executive at Acreage Holdings, another large cannabis company. The VA told him, “a military officer working in the cannabis industry runs contrary to Army values.”
We’ve also covered stories here about civilians getting into the same type of trouble. If you want any sort of job with the federal government, have contracts with them or any other sort of official relationship, being involved with the marijuana industry or being a user of the product can tank your opportunities. That’s because states are legalizing pot left and right, but the federal government still considers it a crime.
This disconnect between state and federal laws is almost unique in American history. There are many cases where some activity is a crime at one level but not mentioned at the other, but this is different. An activity that now considered legal at the state level is expressly banned at the federal level. And as long as this disconnect continues to exist, people are going to get caught up in traps like this. The government isn’t serving its citizens when they are put in such a position.
Ron Wyden introduced a pot legalization bill in the Senate back in February, but it doesn’t seem to have much measurable support. We might not even need federal legalization, however, if some sort of exemption could be granted in these conflicting cases. The veteran in the first story above has been working with his congresswoman, who is trying to get a measure put in place offering VA exemptions to veterans in this position. But even if that effort succeeds, it will only cover a tiny portion of the population.