Marijuana users denied US citizenship

Erick Widman

Last week we wrote about the increasingly common occurrence of permanent residents working in the legal marijuana business in various US states and the uncertainty this has caused when it comes to their immigration status. Since marijuana has not been legalized federally, this is a confusing situation for Permanent Residents living in states where marijuana is not only legal, but has become a huge industry making up a large percentage of new jobs and driving economic growth.

On April 19, 2019, USCIS announced a new policy which officially sets the standard for how the government will approach this issue. Per the policy update, USCIS has confirmed that use or possession of marijuana, as well as any affiliation with the marijuana industry (even if it is legal in your state) will be seen as a conditional bar against naturalization. In the eyes of the federal government, marijuana remains a “Schedule I” controlled substance. Since immigration operates at the federal level, this policy overrides any state laws that contradict it. This policy may also extend to affiliation with the medical marijuana industry.

One of the primary requirements for becoming a naturalized US citizen is the ability to show “Good Moral Character” (GMC) for the three to five years preceding the filing of your application. In general, this means that you have not committed any major crimes or been involved in illegal activities. Thus, this new policy may present an unexpected roadblock for Permanent Residents interested in naturalizing who did not believe they were engaging in illegal activities by taking a job in this growing industry.

So what does this mean for you and your immigration case? This new policy should only affect those who are pursuing naturalization and have been affiliated with the marijuana industry at some point during the past three to five years, depending on how long they have been a Permanent Resident.

If you are concerned that this new policy may affect your immigration status or immigration case, please contact our office at 503-427-8243.

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