Cannabis and Good Moral Character
Even though over 30 states in the U.S have legalized marijuana, it is important to consider the possible consequences of both its consumption and involvement for aspiring US Citizens. Many permanent residents who reside in a state where cannabis is legalized may be confused by the reality that marijuana has not been legalized federally and can lead to potential roadblocks during the individual's naturalization process. This is due to the immigration system operating at the federal level, which grants it the ability to override any state laws that contradict it.
USCIS issued a policy guide in April 2019 which clarifies how any manufacture, possession and distribution of marijuana will be seen as a conditional bar for the good moral character (GMC) of the applicant. GMC is one of the primary requirements for becoming a naturalized US citizen and needs to be shown throughout the three to five years preceding the filing of the individual's naturalization application. If USCIS determines that the applicant lacks GMC due to their involvement in the cannabis industry - even in compliance with state law- they may be denied citizenship.
This matter has certainly raised concern among government officials. Rep. Brendaon Boyle (D-PA) who recently filed a new Congressional bill in March 2021 addresses how non-criminal offenses such as alcohol and marijuana consumption should not be penalized to the extent of deportation or denial of citizenship. This bill would also offer immigrants who were denied visas or deported solely due to cannabis offenses the opportunity to reapply or have their documents reinstated.
Though immigrant advocates and lawmakers work together to challenge the USCIS policy on cannabis, it continues to be enforced amongst non-US citizens. What does this mean for you and your immigration case? This policy will apply to all non-U.S citizens who are pursuing naturalization and have been affiliated with the cannabis industry at some point during their process. It is important to consider the possibility of citizenship denial, even if your state permits it.
If you are concerned with this policy or how it may affect your immigration status or immigration case, please contact our office at (503) 427- 8243.