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USCIS Issues New Policy: Controlled Substance-Related Activity and Good Moral Character Determinations


LOS ANGELES: 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 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.

Since 1996, some states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to decriminalize the manufacture, possession, distribution, and use of both medical and non-medical (recreational) marijuana in their respective jurisdictions. However, federal law classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” controlled substance whose manufacture (which includes production, such as planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting), distribution, dispensing, or possession may lead to immigration consequences.

USCIS Issues Policy Guidance:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify that violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, remains a conditional bar to establishing good moral character (GMC) for naturalization even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law.

Background Since 1996, a number of states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to decriminalize the cultivation, possession, distribution, and use of both medical and non-medical (recreational) marijuana in their respective jurisdictions. However, federal law classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” controlled substance whose manufacture, cultivation, possession, or distribution may lead to criminal1 and immigration consequences. This guidance, contained in Volume 12 of the Policy Manual, is controlling and supersedes any prior guidance on the topic. Policy Highlights

Clarifies that violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, established by a conviction or admission, is generally a bar to establishing GMC for naturalization even where the conduct would not be a violation of state law.

 An applicant who is involved in certain marijuana related activities may lack GMC if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state or foreign laws.

Citation
Volume 12: Citizenship and Naturalization, Part F, Good Moral Character, Chapter 5, Conditional Bars for Acts in Statutory Period [12 USCIS-PM F.5]

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