Marijuana Use Could Bar Immigrants from Citizenship, Feds Say
Violation of federal controlled substance law could derail citizenship even in states where use is legal.
By Claire Hansen, Staff Writer April 19, 2019, at 3:34 p.m.
USCIS: Marijuana Use a Bar to Citizenship
For immigrants applying for naturalization in the U.S., “good moral character” must be determined in order to be granted citizenship.
USING MARIJUANA OR JUST working in the cannabis industry – even when those actions are legal under state law – would in many cases be a bar for immigrants to establish the “good moral character” needed for citizenship, a U.S. immigration agency clarified Friday.
The federal government’s action comes on the last working day before 4/20 – the unofficial marijuana holiday – and serves as a harsh reminder from the federal government that it is not fully embracing the growing trend toward acceptance of the drug.
U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services issued a policy clarification stating that a violation of the federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, could be a conditional bar to becoming a U.S. citizen.
“Since 1996, a number of states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to decriminalize the cultivation, possession, distribution, and use of both medical and non-medical (recreational) marijuana in their respective jurisdictions,” the agency clarification states. “However, federal law classifies marijuana as a ‘Schedule I’ controlled substance whose manufacture, cultivation, possession, or distribution may lead to criminal and immigration consequences.”
Immigrants applying for naturalization must be determined to have good moral character in order to be granted citizenship. Certain offenses can present permanent or conditional bars to being granted the determination.
The majority of U.S. states have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, but the drug remains classified by the federal government as a Schedule I controlled substance.
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