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USCIS: Marijuana use could prevent citizenship

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Using marijuana or working in the marijuana industry — even on Guam and other jurisdictions where marijuana use is allowed by local law — could prevent an immigrant from establishing the “good moral character” needed to gain citizenship in the United States, federal officials said.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent out an April 19 memo that clarified at least one aspect of the impact of local marijuana laws that contradict federal laws. The memo stated that the “violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, remains a conditional bar to establishing good moral character.”

Good moral character is a requirement for naturalization. In general, applicants must show that they have been and continue to be in good moral standing during the period prior to filing and up to when they take the Oath of Allegiance.

“While USCIS determines whether an applicant has met the (good moral character) requirement on a case-by-case basis, certain types of criminal conduct automatically preclude applicants from establishing (good moral character) and may make the applicant subject to removal proceedings,” the USCIS policy manual stated.

The majority of states and territories have legalized marijuana, largely for medical use. But Guam joined the short list of jurisdictions that legalized recreational marijuana when Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019 earlier this month.

Regardless, at the federal level, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance.

This means becoming involved in its manufacture, distribution, dispensing or possession may lead to immigration consequences and may indicate a lack of good moral character for foreign nationals applying for U.S. citizenship, according to USCIS.

The number of foreign nationals granted permanent residence on Guam, including naturalization, is small compared to most states — fewer than 1,000 per year in recent years. However, 2017 did see an uptick to more than 840 individuals compared to a little more than 700 the prior two years.