When a newly retired U.S. Army veteran applied for a job in March, he told the local recruiter that he was using CBD oil through Florida's medical marijuana program.
The revelation was soon confirmed by a failed drug test. The federal contract position would have paid $10,000 for a month's work abroad. But forced to choose between his health and his wallet, he kept taking the CBD oil.
"I don't think it's right that we have to make that choice," said Vincent, 45, who asked that his full name not be used out of fear his legal cannabis use could jeopardize his veteran benefits.
Veterans like Vincent -- who served two tours in Iraq -- find themselves increasingly frustrated with the hurdles they face in trying to access marijuana for medical purposes even as support for legalizing the drug continues to grow.
Lucrative federal jobs become off limits even if they reside in one of the 34 states with a medical marijuana program. They need to pay out of pocket for the drug and required doctor visits, and it has to be in cash because banks can't work with the marijuana industry under federal law. And many worry they could lose hard-earned benefits if they publicly disclose legal use.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs states on its website that "veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use," including disability payments.
Yet when Vincent asked his veteran service officer how his marijuana use would affect his disability and retirement checks, he said the officer could not give him a clear answer.
Individual reports, such as a case in Massachusetts this year where a veteran reportedly lost their VA home loan eligibility because they worked for a legal marijuana company, stoke fear and uncertainty.
But the perceived risks aren't stopping a growing number of veterans from trying medical marijuana as an alternative treatment, though they are careful to remain in the shadows.