Buying or selling marijuana, even at state-regulated cannabis shops, shows a lack of “good moral character” and could derail immigrants’ hopes of becoming U.S. citizens, immigration officials have said.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ April 19 “policy alert” is causing a stir among Alaska immigration attorneys, Alaska Public Media reported on Monday.
“I think it’s fairly ridiculous,” said Anchorage attorney William Brattain, whose law firm is called Alaska Immigration Law Center. “To me it’s an example of where federal law is not keeping pace with the concepts of what’s really going on in society. And the reason that it’s not is purely 100% political.”
Brattain says one of his clients admitted to smoking two joints as a teenager in Mexico. Brattain says the authorities are using it to say she lacks good moral character.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services declined an interview request but sent a statement saying the agency has to decide cases based on federal law, under which marijuana remains illegal.
Anchorage immigration attorney Nicolas Olano points out that federal regulations say judgments about "good moral character" should take into account the standards of average citizens in the community where the people live.
"We live in Anchorage, Alaska. It is legal here," he said. "People enjoy marijuana. They enjoy recreational drug. It's not a problem. It's not a moral issue."
Olano advises that refugees, green-card holders or anyone on a work visa that taking a job in the cannabis industry could radically complicate their cases for changes in visa status or naturalization.
“I think they should be able to work wherever they want. It’s legal,” Olano said. “But just as a blanket advice? No. Stay away. Absolutely.”