Marijuana as a Basis for Denial of Immigration Benefits

  • Jun 14 2019

The legalization of marijuana use, both medical and recreational, and possession continues across the United States. In contrast, however, the U.S. Code continues to define marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic which means it may have a “high potential for abuse,” among other things. The contrast between state and federal law on the subject of marijuana possession and use has been dealt with in different ways. While the Obama administration granted deference to state laws regarding marijuana legalization, the current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, rescinded this deference. The Department of Justice has once again amped up enforcement of narcotics laws, including those relating to marijuana. This stance on marijuana on the federal level has carried over to the federal policies regarding immigration. As it stands now, marijuana possession and use can jeopardize a person’s ability to receive immigration benefits.

Marijuana Possession and Use as a Basis for Denial of Immigration Benefits

It does not matter if marijuana possession and use are legalized in a certain state or even if an individual was actually charged or convicted of a marijuana possession crime, any evidence that an individual used or possessed marijuana can potentially serve as a basis for denial of immigration benefits such as:

  • Temporary visas
  • Permanent residency
  • Naturalization

It may also be a basis for the revocation of immigration benefits a person is already in possession of.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently made it clear that involvement of any sort with marijuana can act as proof that an individual lacks good moral character. Showing good moral character is one of the central requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization. USCIS specifically noted that because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I narcotic under federal law, it does not matter if it has been legalized in a particular state. Any person who has cultivated, used, possessed, or distributed marijuana can be deemed to lack the good moral character necessary to qualify for U.S. citizenship.

This clarification of immigration policy as it relates to marijuana is important to remember. While around two-thirds of U.S. states have legalized the medical use of marijuana and 10states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, the consequences of being associated with marijuana can have serious effects on the federal immigration level. USCIS has made it clear that immigration benefits will be denied to those found to be involved with marijuana in any way. In fact, the policy clarification issued by USCIS on this topic was a follow up to officials in Colorado warning the residents of the state that working for marijuana growers or dispensaries could negatively impact an application for U.S. citizenship. This is despite the fact that the application for naturalization only asks if an applicant has a criminal record. There is no specific question regarding involvement with marijuana.

Helping You on the Path to U.S. Citizenship

The laws regarding immigration are complex and are affected by many other laws and policies at both the state and federal levels. Talamantes Immigration Law Firm, APC, is here to answer any of your immigration questions. Contact Talamantes Immigration Law Firm, APC, in Chula Vista today.

Posted in: Immigration Law