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Employees Seeking Citizenship Should Avoid Marijuana Industry

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently issued policy guidelines that serve as a warning, particularly to employees who are non-U.S. citizens residing in states where marijuana use is legal.
Federal law continues to prohibit the use of marijuana, classifying it as a Schedule I controlled substance. Many states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purpose and/or recreational use. The cannabis industry is rapidly expanding and state employment laws are evolving in an effort to keep up with the changes. In April, the USCIS issued a “Policy Alert” including a provision stating that “violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, established by conviction or admission, is generally a bar to establishing [Good Moral Character] for naturalization even where the conduct would not a violation of state law.” Showing good moral character is a critical element of qualifying for U.S. citizenship. In issuing this new guidance, the policy was stated to supersede all previous guidance regarding marijuana use. “An applicant who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack GMC if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state or foreign laws." This language is written broadly enough that it could include simply being employed in the cannabis industry.