The call came Monday morning as he dressed for work.
The US House of Representatives passed your amendment, said the caller from Representative Katherine Clark’s office. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.
It was validation for the 35-year-old disabled Army veteran from Revere. He never imagined that anyone would care that the Veterans Administration had rejected his home loan application in January, just as his family was set to move, because the VA disapproved of his job managing a marijuana store.
But now, the House had shown it agreed that the veteran should have received his earned benefit. Last Friday, it passed a measure banning the VA from considering veterans’ income from state-approved cannabis industries as a reason to deny them their benefit of a low-rate home loan guarantee with no money down.
“I’m blown away — I can’t believe it,” said the veteran, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his military relationship. “It’s cool because we fought the good fight and something really went the way it should go.”
In January, after the veteran’s house purchase fell through at the last moment because of the VA’s rejection, he contacted his congresswoman, Clark. She filed the amendment to ban the VA’s practice as part of the larger defense budget. Separately, she sent a letter, signed by 20 lawmakers, to the VA requesting more policy details in light of the veteran’s case. The letter noted that more than 211,000 people work in the legal cannabis trade nationwide, which generates $11 billion in sales per year.
“The cannabis industry is a growing part of our economy and no one, let alone our veterans, should be penalized for being part of it,” Clark said in a statement Friday after the House vote. “The passage of this amendment ensures that our service members receive the benefits they deserve while modernizing the policies of the VA.”
The VA did not respond to a request for comment, but previously said it would reply directly to the lawmakers.
Because the Senate had already passed its version of the defense budget, a joint committee will determine whether the measure will be included in the bill that lands on President Trump’s desk.
The Revere veteran’s experience highlights one of the many ways that veterans and others can get caught between federal marijuana prohibition and states that have legalized pot.
Some veterans have reported a loss of benefits or being labeled unemployable as a result of consuming marijuana or working in the legal marijuana industry. Many veterans who find medical relief from pot say they’re financially overburdened and medically underserved because the VA doesn’t discuss or cover the drug as it does with other medications, including opioids.
The Revere veteran started working in the cannabis industry after finding that medical marijuana helped ease his chronic pain resulting from tearing both shoulders in a military training exercise. The cannabis also allowed him to get off opioids, he said, which made him “a shell of myself.”
Last year, he became the assistant manager of a marijuana retailer, now one of the state’s 22 pot shops. He loves helping patients find relief. The job gives him fulfillment that he’d missed since the Army.
In January, when he learned why the VA rejected his home loan, the veteran vented to his coworkers. One of his colleagues connected him to a mortgage company that helped him secure a reduced-rate home loan that he could afford.
The veteran and his family are no longer crammed into a tiny apartment or his parents’ home. Last week, they moved into their new house: a yellow four-bedroom in Dracut with a sunroom, white countertops, and a huge backyard perfect for his three children.
“It’s a dream come true,” the veteran said. “It’s a bigger, better, beautiful house. Maybe everything happens for a reason.”