Marijuana crimes may cost migrants chance at citizenship

April 19, 2019 GMT

The government’s chief legal immigration agency announced new policy guidance Friday saying that marijuana-related crimes can still prevent someone from earning citizenship or other immigration benefits, even if use is considered legal under their state law.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services updated its policy manual to clarify the situation.

The agency said the update will remind adjudicators that pot remains illegal under federal law, and that controls government decisions including whether a migrant meets the “good moral character” standard required to earn citizenship.

“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,” the new guidance says.

Any offense beyond a single possession of fewer than 30 grams could be deemed a violation of the moral standard test, the agency says.

The 30-gram threshold for a marijuana offense is written into the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“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. Federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does,” the agency said in a statement.

Drug offenses have long been among some of the most serious red flags for immigration purposes, and can be a quick way to merit deportation for migrants who aren’t yet protected by citizenship.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has warned migrants not to get involved with marijuana, either use or working for a related business, even in states where it’s legal, to avoid those entanglements.

Judging by online immigration forums it appears to be an issue a number of migrants are grappling with, as states lessen penalties or fully legalize use in medical cases or even for recreational use.