USCIS Announcement: Legal Marijuana Use Will Prevent You From Obtaining Citizenship

Legal marijuana USA immigration lawyer

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its Policy Manual to clarify that the possession of marijuana, under any circumstances, including possession in states that have legalized marijuana, will prevent a foreign national from obtaining US citizenship. As a New York immigration lawyer, I have received a lot of inquiries regarding this latest USCIS policy update. This article seeks to explain the implications of USCIS’s announcement.

Why does USCIS ban legal marijuana users from obtaining US citizenship?  

Despite its legalization in many states, marijuana use is in violation of the Federal Controlled Substance Act. USCIS, which is a federal agency, takes the position that, with no exceptions, all marijuana use is prohibited under the Federal Controlled Substance Act, regardless of state laws governing marijuana use. This inflexible position is particularly worrisome given that many individuals legally use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Any applicant found to have violated the Federal Controlled Substance Act will be deemed to lack the necessary “good moral character” to become a citizen of the United States. The updated Policy Manual has an entire section titled, “Conditional GMC Bar Applies Regardless of State Law Decriminalizing Marijuana.” The exact language in the USCIS Policy Manual states: “A number of states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) have enacted laws permitting “medical” or “recreational” use of marijuana. Marijuana, however, remains classified as a “Schedule I” controlled substance under the federal CSA. Schedule I substances have no accepted medical use pursuant to the CSA. Classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law means that certain conduct involving marijuana, which is in violation of the CSA, continues to constitute a conditional bar to GMC for naturalization eligibility, even where such activity is not a criminal offense under state law.”

This means that even if you used marijuana as prescribed by your doctor and in compliance with all state rules, you could be found to lack “good moral character” and, therefore, be ineligible for naturalization. If you are worried how this USCIS marijuana policy may impact your immigration case, I recommend you contact an experienced immigration lawyer. As part of our immigration lawyer New York services, we always evaluate the implications of marijuana use for each of our clients’ immigration cases. If you are searching for an “immigration lawyer near me” because you are worried about the immigration implications of your marijuana use, please contact our New York immigration law office.  

Are US citizenship applicants working in the marijuana industry barred from naturalization?

USCIS’s marijuana policy could significantly impact marijuana industry workers and investors. The legal marijuana industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past years. Unsurprisingly, many foreign national residents of the United States are drawn to this industry. As a New York business lawyer, I represent foreign and domestic investors and business owners in the legal cannabis industry. However, as part of our immigration lawyer New York services, we always caution foreign nationals residing in the US to abstain from working or investing in the marijuana industry.

USCIS could deny your application for US citizenship if you work in a marijuana store, in marijuana production, or own interest in a legal marijuana business, if USCIS finds that your work or investment activities in the United States have violated the Federal Controlled Substance Act. The exact language in the USCIS policy manual reads: “Such an offense under federal law may include, but is not limited to, possession, manufacture or production, or distribution or dispensing of marijuana. For example, . . . employment in the marijuana industry may constitute conduct that violates federal controlled substance laws.”

If you are a foreign national residing in the US and are worried that USCIS’s marijuana policy may impact your immigration case, I recommend you contact an experienced immigration lawyer. As part of our immigration attorney New York services, we always evaluate the implications of legal marijuana and cannabis related investments and work in each of our clients’ immigration cases. If you are searching for an “immigration attorney near me” because you are worried about the immigration implications of your marijuana industry investment, please contact our New York immigration law firm office.  

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How will USCIS find out about my marijuana use?

The US citizenship applicant bears the burden of proof to demonstrate “good moral character.” If you admit to marijuana use before an immigration officer, or if you have any marijuana related convictions you may be deemed to lack the necessary “good moral character” for US citizenship. The exact language in the USCIS Policy Manual states: “Note that even if an applicant does not have a conviction or make a valid admission to a marijuana-related offense, he or she may be unable to meet the burden of proof to show that he or she has not committed such an offense.” I recommend you contact an experienced immigration attorney to discuss the specifics of your immigration case, if you are concerned about this USCIS policy update.  

Is there an exception for convictions of possession of small amounts of marijuana?

If you were convicted one time for the possession of a small amount of marijuana you may still be eligible for US citizenship. The immigration laws and regulations provide that a single, one time, conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana does not bar an applicant from demonstrating “good moral character.”

The USCIS Policy manual states: “The conditional bar to GMC for a controlled substance violation does not apply if the violation was for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. This exception is also applicable to paraphernalia offenses involving controlled substances as long as the paraphernalia offense is “related to” simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.” If you have been convicted of a marijuana related offense, I recommend contacting an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate whether you qualify under this exception.

Our New York immigration lawyer is here to help you with your immigration case

Are you wondering how this latest USCIS policy update may impact your immigration case? Are you an applicant for US citizenship who is a legal marijuana user or employed in the legal marijuana industry? Are you searching for an “immigration lawyer near me”? As an experienced New York immigration law firm, Pandev Law has the knowledge and experience to guide you through your immigration case.

To learn more about our immigration lawyer New York services or to schedule a consultation with our New York immigration attorney, please complete our contact form, email admin@pandevlaw.com, or call us at (212) 220-6652.

During your consultation, our NYC immigration lawyer will provide an honest assessment of your case, and a recommendation about your next steps.

Disclaimer: This blog article is provided by Pandev Law, LLC for general educational and informational purposes only. Although this article discusses general legal issues, it does not constitute legal advice nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented in this article, or elsewhere on this website, without seeking the advice of appropriate legal counsel, or other professional counsel, licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. Pandev Law, LLC expressly disclaims any and all liability with respect to any actions taken, or not taken, based on any content of this article or website. This blog article may constitute attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.