House legislation now moves to conference committee, then President’s desk

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2019- Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, successfully secured passage of an amendment to prevent discrimination against veterans who are legally employed in the cannabis industry as part of the House’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed on Friday, July 12, 2019. The amendment will prohibit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from denying benefits, including VA home loans, based on a veteran’s income being derived from a State’s legal marijuana industry.

“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,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark. “The passage of this amendment ensures that our service members receive the benefits they deserve while modernizing the policies of the VA.”

Among the benefits offered to our nation’s veterans, the VA offers loan guarantees for low-rate mortgages with no money down. Earlier this year, a constituent of Congresswoman Clark’s reported to her office that he had been denied this benefit based on his legal employment in the cannabis industry in Massachusetts. The VA informed the Congresswoman’s office that this source of income was not “stable and reliable. 

In response, Clark sent a letter to the VA in May asking for clarification on their regulations relating to veterans employed legally in the cannabis industry, as well as advocating the VA modernize its policies to reflect the budding role of the cannabis industry throughout the U.S. Over 200,000 Americans are working in jobs related to medical or recreational cannabis, generating $11 billion in sales annually. Most states have now legalized cannabis use for one or both of these uses, and this number will only continue to rise.

The NDAA passed the House with several critical reforms, including the repeal of the 2001 and 2002 AUMF, the prevention of unilateral action on Iran, and investments in military pay and housing. It also includes two other amendments offered by Congresswoman Clark protecting access to health insurance for government employees during shutdowns and preventing the President and VP from personally contracting with the federal government. The NDAA will next head to conference committee where the differing House and Senate versions will be reconciled before heading to the President’s desk.

Congresswoman’s amendment text can be viewed here.