May
03
2019

Immigration and Naturalization Update: “Legal” Marijuana

marijuanaImmigration and Naturalization Update: Those who use Medical Marijuana work in the “Legal” Marijuana industry are not of Good Moral Character, may be denied Citizenship

One of the requirements for a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) to become a US Citizen is to prove that they are of good moral character (GMC). On April 19, 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy alert that individuals may not be of GMC if they possess marijuana (even medical marijuana) or work in the marijuana industry, even in states where it has been legalized.

The federal government still classifies marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance- making it illegal to possess, manufacture, and distribute under federal law, and “certain conduct involving marijuana, which is in violation of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act), continues to constitute a conditional bar to GMC for naturalization eligibility, even where such activity is not a criminal offense under state law… For example, possession of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes or employment in the marijuana industry may constitute conduct that violates federal controlled substance laws. Depending on the specific facts of the case, these activities, whether established by a conviction or an admission by the applicant, may preclude a finding of GMC for the applicant…” Volume 12: Citizenship and Naturalization, Part F, Good Moral Character, Chapter 5, Conditional Bars for Acts in Statutory Period [12 USCIS-PM F.5]

What this means is that regardless of state law, and even though the non-citizen may be using marijuana medicinally or working in a state-licensed dispensary, they run the risk of being denied citizenship because the federal government can view them as lacking good moral character. There are additional negative consequences of “legal” marijuana for non-citizens, such as potential removability or denial of future immigration benefits. Before working in a marijuana-related industry or obtaining a marijuana license, any non-citizen should consult with an immigration attorney.