May 29, 2019

Neguse, Jeffries and Armstrong Lead Bipartisan Letter to Change Administration Guidance on Immigrants Working in the Cannabis Industry

Washington D.C. —Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) are leading a bipartisan letter urging Attorney General Barr and Acting Secretary McAleenan to retract guidelines issued in April which bars the naturalization of legal permanent residents who have been employed in the legal Cannabis industry. The letter follows recent incidents where individuals in Colorado and elsewhere were not only denied naturalization but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) compelled those individuals to sign affidavits confirming their employment in the cannabis industry, subjecting them to potential federal prosecution and deportation.

“We respectfully disagree with the recent guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) formalizing a bar to naturalization for legal permanent residents who have been employed in the legal cannabis industry, in accordance with state law, and wish to see rescission of this policy and – at the very minimum – clarification on the process as it stands,” states the letter.

“In Colorado, the cannabis market is legal and legitimate, employing thousands of employees and bringing in nearly $6 billion annually in sales, it’s time that we end the conflict between state and federal laws to ensure that individuals working in the cannabis industry are not penalized for that work,” said Neguse. “The recent incident in Denver, where two individuals were denied naturalization because of legal work in the cannabis industry, is completely unacceptable and reinforces this need for clarification. This is why we are calling on the DOJ and DHS to retract the current guidelines to protect legal workers in the cannabis industry.”

“It is time that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services stop penalizing permanent residents, simply because they worked in the legal-cannabis industry,” said Jeffries. “Rep. Neguse, Rep. Armstrong and all involved are to be commended for their efforts in this regard.”

“Thirty-four states throughout the country have some form of legalized marijuana. The federal government is penalizing people for working in a legal industry in those states. That’s terrible public policy,” said Armstrong. “With this bipartisan letter, we’re urging DHS and DOJ to respect the settled expectations on cannabis.”

Other signers of the letter include Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán, Earl Blumenauer, Salud Carbajal, Tony Cárdenas, Steve Cohen, J. Luis Correa, Charlie Crist, Jason Crow, Peter DeFazio, Diana DeGette, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Veronica Escobar, Tulsi Gabbard, Matt Gaetz, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Jimmy Gomez, Raúl Grijalva, Deb Haaland, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Steven Horsford, Jared Huffman, Pramila Jayapal, Henry C.“Hank” Johnson, Jr., Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Ed Perlmutter, Chellie Pingree, Jan Schakowsky, Darren Soto, Eric Swalwell, Dina Titus, Nydia Velásquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Don Young.

For a copy of the letter, email Sally Tucker at