Weed Week

New Federal Immigration Guidance Says Stoners Lack 'Good Moral Character'

A policy alert from the USCIS agency clarifies that smoking weed, even in states that've legalized it, can still be grounds for denying citizenship applications.


Today the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency, which processes citizenship applications and is part of the Department of Homeland Security, released a policy alert saying that consuming state-legal marijuana could still be grounds for denying someone's citizenship application.

"Since 1996, a number of states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to decriminalize … both medical and non-medical (recreational) marijuana in their respective jurisdictions," reads USCIS's alert. "However, federal law classifies marijuana as a 'Schedule I' controlled substance" meaning its sale or possession is a still a violation of federal law.

Therefore, says the agency, admissions of past marijuana use—even if said use occurred in a state or country where it was legal—could be a bar to establishing an applicant's "good moral character," a requirement immigrants need to meet in order to become citizens.

With the policy alert, smoking pot explicitly joins the many other vices that could be used to deny aspiring Americans full citizenship. Current federal policy also considers polygamists, adulterers, prostitutes, and "habitual drunkards" to be unworthy of naturalization.

As the Cato Institute's David Bier points out, the new policy goes further than just barring immigrants who've been convicted of marijuana offenses or otherwise admitted to consuming it.

Reads the USCIS policy alert, "even if an applicant does not have a conviction or make a valid admission to a marijuana-related offense, he or she may be unable to meet the burden of proof to show that he or she has not committed such an offense."

"In other words, even if an immigrant attempting to become an American has never been convicted of using marijuana and won't admit doing so, they could still be denied U.S. citizenship," writes Bier.

Deeming stoners to be "immoral" is obviously a pretty antiquated view, particularly given the fact that a full 65 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal. And while a lot of progress has been made on that front on the state and local level, USCIS's policy alert is a helpful reminder that federal prohibitions are still doing a lot of damage.

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  1. JUST IN: Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “The House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

    Now that Mueller has confirmed our worst fears about Putin’s Puppet, he must be removed from office.


  2. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-drug-suspect-escapes-arrest-20190319-story.html

    Very interesting…

    Drug suspect escapes arrest after group threatens Chicago cop on West Side

    Police said two officers observed a drug transaction involving a man inside a vehicle around 2:10 p.m. and tried to arrest the suspect at the scene. During the arrest, a bundle of suspected drugs wound up underneath a police vehicle, authorities said.

    As one officer worked to control a gathering crowd and pursue another man who fled with the drug bundle, his partner was surrounded by a group of people, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

    The group “implied that they had weapons” and threatened the lone officer, though no one in the group displayed a weapon, Guglielmi said. For his personal safety, the officer backed away, and someone in the group grabbed the suspect and fled, Guglielmi said.

    “It was a situation where (the officer) didn’t want to escalate what could have been a very volatile situation with a group of people.”

    We always escalate…unless we think we’ll be the ones getting fucked up.

  3. “Deeming stoners to be “immoral” is obviously a pretty antiquated view, particularly given the fact that a full 65 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal.”

    This “logic” fails on its face.

    I’m sure a clear majority of Americans don’t think people should be criminally prosecuted for cheating on their spouses, but who thinks that means cheating on your spouse isn’t immoral?

    Seeing the line between immorality and criminality clearly is practically a prerequisite for libertarianism. If you think the fact that people think something should be legal means that it must not be immoral, then you’re having problems differentiating between them.

    1. The specific immoral activity the memo focuses on is violation of the federal MJ statutes, not MJ use in general.

      If the statutes were repealed, the underlying rationale for calling it immoral would disappear.

      1. Or if the federal marijuana statutes were declared a violation of the 10th Amendment (at least in the case of state-legal, locally-sourced MJ), such an admission would be the same as repeal.

        1. I believe the Romans had things they’d refer to as “evil by nature” and “evil by law”. Murder is evil by nature. Going over the speed limit is evil by law. You see the difference!

          If what they’re talking about is statutory immorality (something being immoral because of the statute), then why are they talking about “habitual drunkards”?

          There’s this thing called a work “ethic”. While it’s entirely possible to have a strong one despite habitual drunkenness and marijuana consumption, I suspect drunks and stoners are less apt to develop and maintain a work ethic over time, and that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about desirable immigrants, isn’t it? Certainly, anybody who develops and maintains the kind of work ethic I’m talking about probably does so in spite of marijuana consumption and habitual drunkenness–rather than because of it, right?

          If you’ve got two candidates for a job in front of you, and they’re so close in terms of qualifications, it’s incredible–except you find out that one of them smokes marijuana and the other one doesn’t? If your company’s future depends on the performance of that employee, which candidate do you choose?

          Aren’t we making more or less that kind of choice when we’re looking at immigrants, which ones to let in, and which ones to reject?

          1. I’m only saying the memo focuses on the alleged illegal status of MJ, not the factors you mentioned.

      2. No, according to the article, it doesn’t matter what country the act takes place in. So it couldn’t be about federal law. Same w adultery, since there’s no federal viol’n there either.

        1. The regulations and laws involve “Violation of any law on controlled substances, except for simple possession of 30g or less of marijuana” – this could include foreign laws, but not foreign countries which have legalized the stuff.


          1. So, yes, it doesn’t have to be federal law only, but there has to be a law against it which the applicant violated. It’s still a legal-positivist approach.

  4. “With the policy alert, smoking pot explicitly joins the many other vices that could be used to deny aspiring Americans full citizenship. Current federal policy also considers polygamists, adulterers, prostitutes, and “habitual drunkards” to be unworthy of naturalization.”

    Yeah, I don’t see why we should let undesirable people into our country. Didn’t MLK have a dream about this kind of thing, where people are judged by the content of their character? Maybe you’d rather the government discriminated on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin?

    Yeah, the U.S. needs as many hard working people who aren’t looking for a handout as we can get. In the meantime, if they’d keep out all the lazy-ass loafers, along with drunkards, stoners, and polygamists, I’m sure most of the country would really appreciate it.

    1. if they’d keep out all the lazy-ass loafers, along with drunkards, stoners, and polygamists, I’m sure most of the country would really appreciate it

      You grow more and more self-righteous with each passing year.

      1. Nah, I’ve always been pretty anti-lazy ass, layabout–even as I’ve always been against the drug war. If anything, I mellowed as I got older.

        Anyway, that’s the great thing about intellectual honesty. Just because I want marijuana legalized doesn’t mean I have to give a thumbs up to grown men who . . .

        Because I don’t want to bring Prohibition back, that doesn’t mean I have to pretend alcoholics are a great addition to society either.

        There’s actually something very perverse about lowering the social costs of getting fucked up even as they make it more difficult to save, invest, start a business, etc. Something about this brave new world hates the idea that people are responsible for their own lives. I keep hoping that as people become free to fuck up their lives without the government’s help, the rest of us will become more free to be successful. I’m not sure that’s the way it works, but here’s to hoping.

        1. Amen to the above, especially the last paragraph!!!

    2. if they’d keep out all the lazy-ass loafers, along with drunkards, stoners, and polygamists

      Don’t forget the Irish!

      1. Or the Catholics!

    3. along with drunkards, stoners, and polygamists

      What’s your beef with people who drink, smoke, and screw around?

      1. Start with a blank slate.

        If we want an immigration policy predicated on letting in people who are desirable additions to our society, at the expense of people who maybe aren’t, we might try to keep out people who indulge in activities that are often associated with lowering their productivity and people who have more children than they can afford to maintain by themselves.

        Isn’t that right?

        On the other hand, you’ve got people who think we should discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, etc. That shit’s crazy! I don’t care if you’re Muslim. I don’t care if you’re uneducated. If you’re a pot smoking drunk with three wives and 15 kids–and you only make $35,000 a year? Go find another country. We’ve already got plenty of irresponsible shitheads.

        Behavior that’s highly correlated with irresponsibility–I can’t think of a better criteria for discriminating against some individuals rather than others.

  5. The war on drugs is immoral so government should be punished with a good spanking.

  6. “New Federal Immigration Guidance Says Stoners Lack ‘Good Moral Character’”

    Yeah, so do habitual drunks. And that drinking is legal doesn’t change that. Why should doing drugs being legal suddenly mean that getting stoned shows good character?

    “Good moral character” by definition includes criteria beyond, “Doesn’t get caught breaking laws.”

    We libertarians don’t support legalizing drugs because doing drugs is SMART. We support legalizing drugs because people are entitled to do stupid stuff, so long as the consequences are on them.

    If you habitually do stupid stuff, it’s quite reasonable for immigration authorities to say, “Do your stupid stuff someplace else.”

    1. That’s fine, but it’s not the memo’s reasoning. The memo says doing MJ (in any amount) *in violation of federal statutes* is what violates good moral character.

      As I understand it, this would not apply to someone who did weed in a country where this was legal.

      Perhaps the CISies can revise their guidelines so that being a stoner is like being a drunkard – immoral regardless of legality.

      As it is, they are depending on the unconstitutional federal MJ prohibition statutes to define morality. Which is immoral.

      1. So there is hope? Canadians may actually get visas to These Unsullied States precisely BECAUSE their baby-killing anarchist dope-sotted un-Prohibitionist government influenced by Libertarian spoiler votes refrains from branding them with The Scarlet Leaflet?

        1. I think I could actually understand your point, this is unusual.

    2. This has been a public service announcement from the Landover Baptist Infiltration Unit of Freehold, Iowa.

  7. Good Moral Character.

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    1. Well, that may be easy for you to say.

  8. I really enjoy how Reason still expects us to be astonished. I mean, I guess the young ones still need this shit pointed out to them. The rest of us have already decided that government is 99 percent FYTW, and the other 1 percent is done poorly.

  9. Hey y’all, more on related aspects of this story… Not only are you an undesirable low-lifer if you admit to smoking pot every once in a great while, you are ALSO an undesirable low-lifer if you merely wanted to PAY YOUR FUCKING BILLS, and so, you got yourself a JOB in the legal pot business!!! (Will they punish us for getting a haircut to go along with that job, next?!?!)


    Working in legal marijuana industry could keep immigrants from becoming citizens
    “Employment in the marijuana industry may constitute conduct that violates federal controlled substance laws,” the USCIS said.

  10. Who is going to be so stupid as to admit to smoking pot, on ANY form that they fill out, for Government Almighty? It’s good to be honest, but it is often NOT good to be honest when dealing with stupid and evil people (like Government Almighty).

    What we desperately need is a good, accurate, affordable brain scanner, to weed out the sheep v/s the goats, on this citizenship thing…

  11. The silver lining? National beer prohibition was repealed 86 years ago and “wet” has now been replaced with “habitual drunkard.” If 96% continue voting for the looter gerontocracy, by the year 2105 Methodist Board of Temperance and Public Morals guidelines will have changed so that only “habitual stoners” will be stripped of “good moral character” and excluded or deported. Isn’t that exciting?!

  12. People who throw other people in cages, because they like smoking plants to get mellow, lack good moral character.

    1. Yeah, we shouldn’t let them into the country either.

  13. Good.

    Weed should probably be legal, because freedom. But immigration should be based on merit.

    What’s legal has nothing to do with what constitutes merit. It’s legal to hate America, to be illiterate, unskilled, dumb as a box of rocks, or a communist. But none of those things should help your case for being selected for citizenship or residency.

  14. Moral fiber? I invented moral fiber!

  15. There is nothing surprising in such a law as for me. Yes, on the one hand, I understand that there is a problem of illegal migration, but on the other hand, it is very unfair. It is getting harder to get a job in the USA every single day. This is especially true of the federal sector, where verification of USAjobs, federal job interview tips and so on is needed. But after such a tightening of the rules, even immigration will become almost unreal. It is unfair that for such a small offense and even its absence, you can lose the right to immigration.

  16. I am shocked to find that the Federal government thinks that flaunting Federal laws means you shouldn’t be made a citizen.

    1. Yeah, the law’s stupid.

      No, that doesn’t matter to them – and arguably shouldn’t.

      Government’s job is to follow rules, not to make squishy decisions about which laws to totes ignore when it “would be good” to.

      It’s the job of the people and their representatives to fix that.

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