Immigrants who use cannabis or work in the industry can be denied citizenship even if they are in states where it is legal, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services guidance issued Apr. 19. The policy penalizes would-be citizens for having broken federal law.
“The policy guidance … clarifies that an applicant who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack [good moral character] if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws.” – USCIS policy alert
Earlier this month, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking him to reconsider the federal policy to deny naturalization for individuals who work in the cannabis industry. In the letter, outlined by the Washington Post, Hancock says that two immigrants – one from Lithuania and one from El Salvador – “were denied naturalization solely because of their cannabis industry employment.”
Michael Collins, director of National Affairs from the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Post that the policy “has nothing to do with cannabis” rather with the administration’s immigration policies.
“They see cannabis as a ripe opportunity for persecuting these individuals,” Collins said in the report. “The Trump administration has used the war on drugs since the beginning to go after migrant populations.”
USCIS Spokeswoman Jessica Collins told the Post the agency is “required to adjudicate cases based on federal law…which applies to all foreign nationals regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which they reside.”
Kathy Brady, a senior staff lawyer with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, warned that even individuals “who have had a green card for 20 years” should avoid using cannabis and working “in any aspect” of the industry.