Senators Call on DOJ and DHS to Stop Implementation of Guidance Denying Citizenship Over Cannabis-related Activities

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today led nine of his Senate colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent implementation of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidance considering cannabis-related activities as a factor for the “good moral character” standard required for citizenship—even in cases where there is no violation of state law.

Wyden, along with U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. said the guidance “ignores the will of Americans across the country” in a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

“Currently, more than 30 states and territories have legalized some form of cannabis, whether for medical purposes or adult use,” the senators wrote. “These inconsistencies between federal and state cannabis laws are confusing for patients, businesses and other individuals to navigate. We strongly believe that such gaps in policy should not be exploited to penalize otherwise law-abiding legal permanent residents who seek to naturalize.”

The senators noted in their letter that attitudes toward cannabis have significantly shifted in support of legalization and away from federal interference, as evidenced by the growing number of states that continue to implement the will of their voters. They also highlight the economic contributions of state-legal cannabis businesses, including job creation and the tax revenue raised to invest in communities.

“We remain deeply concerned that the enforcement of USCIS guidance during immigration proceedings will not accurately reflect the values or standards of the applicant’s community, especially if the applicant resides in a state or territory where cannabis is legal and where federal cannabis laws remain unenforced,” the senators wrote. “In fact, this mean-spirited change in guidance would prevent, for example, patients who use cannabis for medical conditions from ever actualizing their dream of becoming an American citizen.”

“. . . Further, state-legal cannabis businesses have created over 200,000 jobs across the country and its continued expansion generates new employment opportunities for many Americans every day. Additionally, the tax revenue generated by these small businesses is used to invest in communities, supporting public health, education and law enforcement. We fear the recent change in USCIS guidance will prevent individuals from seeking state-legal employment in the cannabis industry and prevent meaningful and legitimate contributions to the American economy.”

Click here for the full text of the letter.