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Does Marijuana Consumption Affect Your Chance at Citizenship?

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Does Marijuana Consumption Affect Your Chance at Citizenship?

With more states legalizing marijuana use, a major question arises: does marijuana consumption impact one’s chance at achieving their immigration goals?

The answer is - as it is most often in law - “it depends.” However, the answer could often be a resounding yes. There is a difference between drug use and other things, such as possession or trafficking. The sale, transportation, and possession of marijuana is illegal under most state law and federal law. Drug use is not specifically illegal at the federal level, but may be in certain states.

Again, use is per se not illegal, but possession, sale, transportation, etc. likely is, especially at the federal level. The key point here is federal law. Therefore, despite being legal in some individual states, marijuana is classified as an illegal Schedule I controlled substance, which is a direct violation under federal law. People often confuse what they are legally allowed to do. While something can be completely legal in one’s residential state, it can also be federally illegal, which is the law applicable to immigration law.

You may be thinking - how will anyone know I used marijuana? For starters, medical exams are required for immigrant visas at Embassies or Consulates abroad, and residency cases in the United States. Medical exams will often pick up positive marijuana traces and applicants will be flagged as testing positive for the drug. This often leads to a denial of the benefit. Furthermore, USCIS has emphasized to applicants of naturalization that they must show that they are people of good moral character. A factor that is considered when evaluating whether an immigrant has good moral character is to check if they have ever been in violation of any controlled substance laws. Marijuana use may be part of this equation. As a consequence, if an immigrant has used marijuana in any way, and the record before the immigration officer shows it, that officer may consider drug use as bad moral character.

Drug use may or may not impact your application, depending on the circumstances. However, any other violation of marijuana criminal law can and often will harm many types of applications. For example, there was a case of two Denver immigrants who worked in the cannabis industry, who were ultimately determined ineligible for naturalization. Even though marijuana is recreationally and medically legal in Denver, the two applicants were considered to have bad moral character, and were denied their citizenship because of the federal law. The immigrants had been living in the U.S. for over 20 years and were devastated by the decision.

The Mayor of Denver as well as many Denver immigration attorneys, including the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, all spoke out against policies that negatively hinder the legal immigration status for immigrants employed in the cannabis industry. They believe that such regulations are systematically targeted against immigrants, and criticize the policy as being illogical as states continue to legalize and invest in cannabis.

Contact Ibrahim Law Office to get more information on how cannabis consumption and criminal laws can impact your immigration case.

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