December 19, 2019

Warren, Gardner Announce Bipartisan Bill to Address Immigration Status in the State-Legal Cannabis Industry

Legislation would prohibit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from considering cannabis employment in applications for naturalization

Text of Bill (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) today announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would remove participation in the state-legal cannabis industry from the list of activities that automatically bar naturalization.

In April, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance in its policy manual stating that, because cannabis is a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, an applicant that is employed in the state-legal cannabis industry cannot establish good moral character – even if the applicant has not been convicted of an offense and has always acted in compliance with state law. This legislation would amend immigration law to remove this barrier by allowing applicants who comply with state cannabis laws to demonstrate good moral character and become U.S. citizens.

“No one should have to worry about being denied naturalization for working in their state’s legal cannabis industry,” said Senator Warren. “Our bipartisan bill would ensure that outdated federal cannabis laws don’t block the pathway to citizenship for those seeking it through naturalization.”

“Under current law, individuals are deemed to lack ‘good moral character’ and denied American citizenship due to their work in the legal cannabis industry in states like Colorado and Massachusetts. This has to stop.” said Senator Gardner. “Currently 95 percent of Americans are living in states with laws allowing some form of cannabis. The dramatically expanded cannabis industry presents real challenges for our nation, and I’m proud to be working with Senator Warren to address these issues.” 

In addition to today’s announcement, Senators Warren and Gardner announced another bipartisan bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from denying veterans VA-backed home loans based on their employment in their state’s legal cannabis industry. Currently, cannabis is considered illegal under federal law, and as a result, the VA can deny home loans to veterans whose verified income is earned from working in their state’s legal cannabis industry.

Senator Warren also reintroduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) with Senator Gardner in April 2019. Both senators originally introduced the STATES Act in 2018. Senator Warren, a proponent of federal legalization of marijuana, is a cosponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. She also led a series of letters in July 2015December 2015, and June 2016 to federal agencies requesting they reduce barriers to marijuana research, including by rescheduling marijuana.