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Will it affect my citizenship if I consume marihuana or work in the cannabis industry?

Will it affect my citizenship if I consume marihuana or work in the cannabis industry?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is doubling down it’s fight against illegal immigration, and also increasing scrutiny on legal immigrants’ background checks - especially when they apply to U.S. Citizenship. Permanent Residents in the process of naturalization can be negatively impacted if any criminal activity pops up in their history. Crimes involving DWIs or violence can be huge setbacks for many residents, however, drug possession is also seen as serious moral turpitude.

Such is the case for marijuana. Immigrants may reasonably think that if they live in California or Colorado, where recreational consumption of marijuana is legal, their status will not be affected. However, this is not true. USCIS has recently issued a new guideline to clarify this doubt.

The policy alert states that any “violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, remains a conditional bar to establishing good moral character (GMC) for naturalization even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law”.

According to the revised guidance, the use of a medical marijuana program in a legalized state or working at a state-licensed job which involves the production or distribution of cannabis can lead an immigrant to face severe consequences in the future.

What can a non-citizen do in this matter?

Firstly and most importantly, we advise you to not use or carry marijuana until you are a U.S. Citizen. This goes as far as not even working in the marijuana industry.

Second, if you have a real medical need that cannot be treated with any other medication than medicinal marijuana, we advise you to receive a doctor’s prescription and legal council.

Third, if you do use medicinal marijuana, do not carry it out around when you leave the house or without a medical marijuana card in your wallet. Also, rid yourself of using accessories like pipes and marijuana stamped T-shirts or stickers. Another important detail is to clean up your social media; don’t post photos, videos or messages on your Facebook or Instagram that would relate you to the use of marijuana, don’t even keep any evidence on your personal phone.

Ultimately, do not ever discuss the use or possession of marijuana with an immigration officer without the legal council of an attorney. If you are asked about it, you have the right to remain silent or to ask to speak to a lawyer before any questioning.

At Musa-Obregón Law PC, we have decades of experience dealing with immigration and criminal defense cases. If you are in the midst of a naturalization application and find yourself involved with a drug-possession history and, we highly recommend you speak to experienced attorneys before taking on this process by yourself. We welcome you to schedule a free initial consultation by calling 888.502.8461 or contacting us online.


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