Applications for U.S. citizenship can be denied based on a link to marijuana, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has clarified.  The agency recently issued a new guidance in its Policy Manual warning of “immigration consequences” for green card holders found to be cultivating, possessing or distributing marijuana because they may be judged to lack good moral character.  Federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, and violations “are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law,” USCIS noted in a news alert.

One of the key requirements for U.S. citizenship through naturalization is to show good moral character. That means behaving in an acceptable manner, no crimes in the previous five years and no lying during the naturalization interview.  It has recently become clear that the question of moral character covers any ties to marijuana, even in states where it has been decriminalized.  The majority of U.S. states now allow medical uses of marijuana, and 10 have legalized its recreational use. But federal laws still classify it as “as a Schedule I controlled substance whose manufacture (which includes production, such as planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting), distribution, dispensing, or possession may lead to immigration consequences,” the USCIS memo noted.

The policy clarification came shortly after officials in Colorado warned state residents that working for marijuana growers or dispensaries could put at risk their U.S. citizenship applications. Several industry workers who are legal immigrants have been denied citizenship even though the application for naturalization, Form N-400, asks only about criminal record, not marijuana involvement.  The USCIS clarification reflects the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten policies and regulations in order to stop legal immigration. As a result, the legal immigration process has become far more rigorous.

If you or a family member have questions, concerns, or need help with the naturalization process please don’t hesitate to contact our office.