Neil Young wants to become a US citizen and vote in the 2020 presidential election.
But the Canadian singer-songwriter says his citizenship application is being held up because he uses marijuana.
“When I recently applied for American citizenship, I passed the test. It was a conversation where I was asked many questions. I answered them truthfully and passed,” Young said in a statement on his Neil Young Archives website. “Recently however, I have been told that I must do another test, due to my use of marijuana and how some people who smoke it have exhibited a problem.”
According to guidance issued by US Citizenship and Immigration Services in April, an applicant who is found to have violated federal law on controlled substances, including marijuana, could be found to lack “good moral character” – one of the general requirements for naturalization.
That policy applies regardless of state or local laws on marijuana use.
The policy stems from a move by Jeff Sessions
USCIS told CNN it could not comment on whether Young’s application had been held up, citing privacy protections, but said the agency was required to make judgments on cases based on federal law.
“Individuals who commit federal controlled substance violations face potential immigration consequences under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which applies to all foreign nationals regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which they reside,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
“Marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance regardless of any actions to decriminalize its possession, use, or sale at the state and local level,” the statement continued. “Federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.”
Under the Obama administration, the federal government adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, but in 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that policy.
Young has criticized Trump before
Young said that he may have to leave the country while his naturalization proceedings were ongoing.
“I sincerely hope I have exhibited good moral character and will be able to vote my conscience on Donald J. Trump and his fellow American candidates, (as yet un-named),” he wrote. “I will keep you posted, but I don’t think I will be able to remain parked here during the proceedings.”
The artist has been a vocal critic of Trump.
After Trump used Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World” during his presidential campaign announcement in 2015, Young said Trump had not been authorized to use his song and instead endorsed then-candidate Bernie Sanders.
And in 2018, Young criticized Trump’s response to the wildfires in California that destroyed the songwriter’s home.