Immigrants Working In Marijuana Industry May Risk Chance At Gaining Citizenship

Apr 22, 2019

Federal immigration authorities recently announced that immigrants working in the marijuana industry could risk their chance at gaining citizenship.

Under current federal immigration law, one of the requirements for naturalization is, “good moral character.”

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has stated, "certain types of criminal conduct may preclude applicants from establishing good moral character, including the possession, manufacture, distribution or dispensing of marijuana."

That is true even if marijuana is legal in the state where that immigrant resides, like much of the Mountain West.

Mark Silverstein with the ACLU of Colorado disagrees with the federal policy.

“Working in a legal state industry does not mean you have bad moral character,” Silverstein said.

Immigration officials say there has been no federal policy change and the announcement was an attempt to clarify the stance. The agency does make an exception for people whose marijuana violation was a single offense for simple possession of less than 30 grams.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.