On May 29, 2019, forty-seven members of Congress wrote a letter to Attorney General Bob Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan registering their disagreement with the application of USCIS policy guidance to those who have been employed in the legal cannabis industry.

The letter’s signatories, led by Reps. Joe Neguse, Kelly Armstrong and Hakeem Jeffries, noted that thirty states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical and/or recreational purposes. The letter criticizes the policy stating that it “targets naturalization applicants based on lawful employment for an activity that is legal in multiple states and and territories (albeit not under federal law).”

The letter is particularly critical of the potential treatment of naturalization applicants who have not been subjects of marijuana charges or convictions, but whose admissions in the course of immigration adjudications would then expose them to potential federal prosecution and deportation. The letter characterizes the new guidance as “fatally flawed, as it provides no cogent basis for the agency’s apparent conclusion that lawful employment in a state licensed industry could be treated as a negative factor in establishing good moral character.”

The letter concludes by calling on the federal government either to retract the guidance altogether, or to offer more clearly defined standards for obtaining admissions from naturalization candidates disclosing employment in the marijuana industry.

A link to the letter is here.

Whether the letter will result in any modifications of USCIS policy and/or adjudicative processes remains to be seen. Under either outcome, it is likely that marijuana use, possession or distribution by naturalization candidates, even in the course of legal employment, will pose hazards to those applicants for years to come.