We’re pretty sure there’s a prankster working at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services who has orchestrated the release of a new marijuana use policy update on the eve of 4/20, a day traditionally celebrated by cannabis aficionados.
Although we chuckled when we saw the policy alert come through our system, it is helpful to clarification of what has been a somewhat gray area of immigration law: Is it okay for an immigrant to use marijuana in states where it’s legalized?
You’ve probably heard that federal immigration law strictly penalizes controlled substance offenses including crimes relating to possession or use of marijuana or paraphernalia. And that’s absolutely true. But now that several states have legalized the use of marijuana, some people have wondered what, if any, effect it might have on an immigration case to lawfully use/grow/sell these products as permitted by state law.
When asked this question, the attorneys at Indiana Immigration law group have historically always advised that it’s best to take the most cautious approach and avoid any use of federal controlled substances even where state law permits it. Today we got a definitive answer in the form of this policy alert titled “Controlled Substance Related-Activity and Good Moral Character Determinations.”
And yes, our presumption was correct. The policy manual change now states that if you are violating a federal controlled substance law - even if it’s not a crime understate law and you haven't been arrested, it can still negatively affect your immigration case. Specifically, it will prevent you from being found to have "good moral character" for naturalization purposes if you've used it within the five-year period prior to your application (in some cases, three years). So our plea to immigrants everywhere is -- PLEASE stay home and watch Netflix tomorrow evening rather than attending any 4/20 parties!