Ask an Immigration Lawyer: Will Working in the Marijuana Industry Hurt My Citizenship Application?

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

It’s a frightening time for immigrants. Although previous presidents have deported immigrants in large numbers, many – especially those without criminal records – felt a relative sense of normalcy. But with an administration that is outwardly hostile toward immigrant populations, any comfort previously felt is gone. As Donald Trump attempts to tighten immigration laws and cut down on even legal forms of migration into the United States, it can be difficult to keep up with the changing landscape.

That’s why we have launched the Ask an Immigration Lawyer column. Twice a month, Nubia Willman – a Chicago-based immigration attorney with nearly decade of experience – answers your questions about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and more. This column is not meant to be construed as legal advice. You should not act upon any information provided without seeking the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. 

Submit a question here and check out previous columns here.

Dear Nubia: I worked in the cannabis industry in a state where it is legal. Since citizenship applications require that I list everywhere I have worked for the last five years, I want to know, will it affect my application to have a job in this field?

–N420 Applicant

Dear N420: Sorry to harsh your buzz, but it’s really important that if you have worked in the cannabis industry you seek the advice of an attorney before submitting any application. As recently as April 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy guidance to clarify that even if marijuana is legal in someone’s state, it remains illegal under federal regulations. Therefore, it’s possible that if someone is working in the cannabis industry or is involved with marijuana in others ways it could preclude USCIS from finding that the applicant has “good moral character,” which is a requirement to obtain citizenship.

That’s not to say that simply because one worked at a cannabis shop that all hope is lost. It could mean that you’ll be advised to delay your application or the attorney that represents you may identify a valid argument that shows your good moral character hasn’t been affected by your work. Those would all be arguments made based on case law applied to the specific facts of your case so it’s important to talk to someone before filing anything. I do think that eventually the federal government will need to come to terms with its odd aversion to marijuana, but it’s not there yet – and you certainly don’t want to be the one that bears the consequences from these policies.

Good luck!


Disclaimer: The information on this column is not legal advice. Legal information is not the same as legal advice, which is the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information provided in this column is not a substitute for and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. Although Remezcla goes to great lengths to make sure the information on the column is accurate and up to date, we make no claim as to the accuracy of this information and are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of this column.

We recommend that you consult with a licensed attorney if you want assurance that the information on the Remezcla and your interpretation of it are appropriate for your particular situation. You should not and are not authorized to rely on this column as a source of legal advice. The use of this column does not create an attorney-client relationship between Remezcla, its agents, and any user.