VA Refuses to Certify Veteran-Owned Hemp Company

A Florida hemp business owned by an ex-Marine was denied its service-disabled veteran-owned small business designation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over concerns that its recognition might amount to a federal agency endorsing a federally illegal drug.

Full story after the jump.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has refused to recognize a Florida veteran’s hemp product business as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, Marijuana Moment reports. According to the VA, it denied the status to Marine veteran Zack Zindler, owner of Florida-based Holistic Serendipity, LLC — which operates under the name Native Ceuticals — because the business handles “products derived from the same genus of the plant (cannabis) as marijuana,” and the VA’s recognition might amount to a federal agency endorsing a federally illegal drug.

Cannabis is prohibited as a Schedule I substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act; however, the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized industrial hemp, which is categorized as cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC.

Unlike other federal agencies that allow businesses to self-certify and obtain the status, the VA uses the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) to approve businesses for such endorsements. CVE Director John Perkins wrote in Zindler’s denial letter the VA’s approval “would grant the firm the ability to use the VA SDVOSB trademark and therefore may give the appearance that the VA is endorsing a company that promotes the use of a Schedule I controlled substance,” the report says.

Attorney and company lawyer Abigail Nath said that the VA is “putting aside that the CVE has granted this certification to other companies specializing in CBD” and “not abiding by the most recent definition of cannabis as defined by the federal government.”

VA representative Joe Williams told Marijuana Moment that “federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance and is illegal.”

“If a business concern elects to implicitly or explicitly include in its marketing material or pursues contracting opportunities relating to the production and/or endorsement of marijuana and simultaneously applies to become a verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business or Veteran-Owned Small Business, VA and, in turn, the Center for Verification and Evaluation, will not approve such applications,” Williams said.

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