Green Card Holders are Being Denied U.S. Citizenship Because of Jobs in the Marijuana Industry

Marijuana laws are in a state of flux. According to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), recreational marijuana is legal, in some form, in approximately a dozen U.S. states, including in California. However, marijuana remains strictly illegal under federal law. While the cannabis industry is growing rapidly, the federal prohibition on marijuana has major implications for immigrants.

As reported by ABC News, green card holders are being denied American citizenship simply because they are or were employed in the legal marijuana industry. If you or your loved one is considering applying for U.S. citizenship, you should be aware of the fact that ties to the marijuana industry or admission of marijuana use could lead to your application being denied.

Immigrants Held a Roundtable Discussion With the Mayor of Denver, CO

In many ways, Denver is viewed as the center of the American marijuana industry. In 2014, Colorado became the first state to permit the sale of recreational marijuana. This is an industry that now employs more than 200,000 people nationwide; and that number is expected to grow sharply over the next decade.

On April 2nd, 2018, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock held a roundtable forum with immigrants who have ties to the industry. Included among them were two lawful permanent residents who recently had applications for U.S. citizenship denied as a result of their employment in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.

The Story of Oswaldo Barrientos

Oswaldo Barrientos immigrated to the United States with his mother when he was an infant. At 13, he obtained a green card and became a lawful permanent resident. Last year, he decided it was time to apply for United States citizenship. The only problem: Mr. Barrientos held a job at a marijuana dispensary. ABC News reports that he was stunned during his citizenship and naturalization interview when all of the attention was turned towards this employment.

Several weeks later, Mr.  Barrientos received a letter in the mail stating that he was denied U.S. citizenship, the reason being that his job in the marijuana industry was evidence that he lacked “good moral character”.

The rules and regulations surrounding marijuana have never been more complex. This story is an important reminder that immigrants are often forced to deal with the different standards and consequences than the rest of the population. Under U.S. immigration law, marijuana use and any ties to the marijuana industry is still viewed as a violation of federal law. Your application for citizenship could be denied simply because you held a marijuana-related job.  

Speak to a Los Angeles Citizenship Attorney Today

At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, our Los Angeles immigration lawyer has the skills and experience needed to handle the full range of citizenship and naturalization issues. For a fully confidential consultation with a citizenship lawyer, please call us today at (213) 262-2000. We serve communities in Los Angeles and all over Southern California.