U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new guidance Friday saying that working in the marijuana industry, even in areas where it is legal, could prevent immigrants from attaining citizenship.
The agency noted that while several states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana at medical and recreational levels, federal law still classifies the drug as a “Schedule 1” controlled substance.
“USCIS is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify that violations of federal controlled substance law, including violations involving marijuana, are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law,” the agency wrote.
“The policy guidance also clarifies that an applicant who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” USCIS added, writing that manufacturing, distributing or possessing marijuana could “lead to immigration consequences.”
A USCIS spokesperson reiterated in a statement to The Hill that the agency “is required to adjudicate cases based on federal law.”
“Individuals who commit federal controlled substance violations face potential immigration consequences under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which applies to all foreign nationals regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which they reside,” they added.
The new guidance comes as the Trump administration has leaned into its hardline positions on immigration amid a shakeup of the Department of Homeland Security’s senior ranks, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows ‘substantial body of evidence’ on obstruction MORE mulling an overhaul of the asylum process and threatening to close the border with Mexico.
“I don’t think this is about marijuana at all,” Michael Collins, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told NBC News. “I think this is about them using the war on drugs to go after migrant community and that’s what they’ve been doing since Day 1.”
The guidance also comes as support for marijuana legalization rises across the country. A poll released Friday found that 65 percent of Americans believe that pot should be legalized, including 56 percent of Republicans.
Updated at 9:48 a.m.