USCIS Continues to make Marijuana Activity a “Conditional Bar” to Obtaining U.S. Citizenship Despite Local Decriminalization

Thirty-three US states, The District of Columbia, and at least 26 countries around the world have legalized the production and use of cannabis for medical, and, in some jurisdictions, for recreational use.  This wave of legalization has led to a growing and dynamic industry that employs thousands of individuals and has reduced the levels of criminalization of marijuana-related crimes. Despite this changing landscape however, United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) has recently made it clear that virtually any involvement with cannabis, even in jurisdictions where it is now legal, can have serious negative consequences to becoming a United States citizen.

In an April 19 USCIS policy alert, USCIS indicated that it was issuing policy guidance confirming that cannabis-related activity, even when it occurs in a jurisdiction where the activity is legal, creates a conditional bar to demonstrating good moral character for the purposes of naturalization. While USCIS has long treated cannabis-related activity as a basis for withholding immigration benefits, this new pronouncement further highlights the complex and uncertain interaction between state and federal laws, and United States immigration law.

According to the USCIS policy, “marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance regardless of any actions to decriminalize its possession, use, or sale at the state and local level,” a USCIS spokesperson said in a statement. “Federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.”

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Apply NOW for U.S. Citizenship: Vote in November Elections & Have Your Application Reviewed Before a New President Takes the White House

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If you are a Legal Permanent Resident who has held off on applying for U.S. citizenship, now is the time to submit your application to USCIS so that it can be reviewed and approved before November 2016.

First, immigration will be a big ticket issue in the upcoming election, and the outcome and future of U.S. immigration policy could ride on your vote.  Click the links to read more about the immigration platforms of the current Democratic (Hillary Clinton) and Republican (Donald Trump) U.S. presidential candidates.

hillaryclinton.wikimediaSecond, as the new president and his or her cabinet may have a different vision of immigration reform than that held by the current administration, it’s prudent to apply for immigration relief before the powers in charge change.donaldtrump.wikimedia

Third, in anticipation of the upcoming election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reduced the processing period for naturalization and other immigration applications to between approximately three to six (3-6) months.

Even if you are not eligible for naturalization, you may be able to apply for legal immigration status under various other laws currently in effect.  But you must act now, as any of these laws could change based on the outcome of the November elections. Continue reading