US Senators Urge USCIS to Reverse Plan to Deny Citizenship to Permanent Residents Working in the Legal Marijuana Industry

Ten US Democratic senators have written to Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kevin McAleenan calling for the DHS to end an immigration policy that bars immigrants who have worked in the legal marijuana industry from becoming US citizens.

In April, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a memo clarifying that naturalization applicants who admit using cannabis or working in the legal marijuana market would be ineligible to become citizens on the basis of lacking “good moral character.”

Though the use of marijuana is legalized in some form in 30 states across the US, the drug remains illegal under federal law. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic.

Senators Ron Wyden, Patty Murray, Elizabeth Warren, Jacky Rosen, Jeff Merkley, Amy Klobuchar, Catherine Cortez Masto, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris in their letter say the inconsistencies between federal and stat cannabis laws are confusing for patients, business, and others to navigate, adding that the “gaps in policy should not be exploited to penalize otherwise law-abiding legal permanent residents who seek to naturalize.”

“This mean-spirited change in guidance would prevent, for example, patients who use cannabis for medical conditions from ever actualizing their dream of becoming an American citizen. Attitudes toward cannabis have significantly shifted in recent years in support of legalization and away from federal interference,” added the senators in their letter.

In its response, USCIS through its spokesperson Jessica Collins told CBS News that “federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.” CBS News.