Cannabis business ties can lead to citizenship denial, immigration agency says

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Immigration authorities on Friday said they could deny citizenship to anyone with any involvement with marijuana – regardless of whether it’s legal in the state where they live – because MJ is still illegal under federal law.

The announcement comes weeks after officials in Colorado – where recreational and medical marijuana are legal – complained to U.S. Attorney General William Barr that the Department of Justice should adjust its policies as they pertain to employees working for cannabis operations in states where the MJ industry is legal.

The Colorado plea stemmed from at least two green-card holders being denied citizenship because they worked or had worked in marijuana-related jobs in Denver.

However, the updated guidance released Friday by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stipulates that people who use marijuana or are involved with the industry in any way fail to have “good moral character,” a prerequisite for people who have legal permanent residence to gain American citizenship.

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is required to adjudicate cases based on federal law,” the agency’s spokeswoman, Jessica Collins, said in a statement.

“Individuals who commit federal controlled substance violations face potential immigration consequences under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which applies to all foreign nationals regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which they reside.”

Immigrants who apply for citizenship must first fill out a 20-page form known as the “N-400,” which asks about work, family and criminal histories. It doesn’t, however, specifically ask if a person has used marijuana or has ties to the legal cannabis industry.

Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst for the Washington DC-based Migration Policy Institute, said the immigration policy could make some people nervous about applying for citizenship.

“Whether or not it has a real impact is whether adjudicators decide to ask about (marijuana ties),” she said.

– Associated Press