Marijuana May Still Trigger Conditional GMC Bar


Marijuana may still trigger the conditional good moral character (GMC) bar on foreign citizens or nationals applying for naturalization, regardless of state laws. Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act,  and is therefore not federally recognized as a drug with an accepted medical purpose. Many states have legalized or decriminalized activities involving marijuana. Some states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and others for recreational purposes. On April 19, 2019, the USCIS issued new policy guidance to help adjudicators determine whether applicants can establish good moral character if they have been involved with or exhibited conduct related to marijuana.

There are many ways an applicant may trigger the conditional good moral character bar with a controlled substance violation. Considering the growing acceptance of marijuana use for both recreational and medical purposes across the United States, adjudicators are generally instructed to treat an applicant’s conduct involving marijuana, whether by conviction, admission, or otherwise, as a violation of federal law under the Controlled Substance Act. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to, possession, distribution, and/or employment in the marijuana industry. Here is a link to the relevant USCIS Policy Manual chapter. Use Ctrl+F to search for “Marijuana” and you should find the new language related to marijuana and establishing good moral character.

The USCIS Policy Manual does note one exception to the conditional GMC bar and its application to conduct involving marijuana. If the applicant’s violation involving marijuana was for a single offense and they possessed less than 30 grams, the conditional GMC bar does not apply.

If you are thinking about applying for naturalization, and are concerned about involvement with marijuana, Christians Law, PLLC is here to help. Tyler Christians is an experienced naturalization attorney, and would love to discuss any questions you may have about your unique situation. Please feel free to contact us here or simply fill out the short form below with your information and we will get back to you shortly. Thank you for visiting

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