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U.S. seeks to keep pot smokers, industry workers from citizenship

In Louisiana, legislators have sponsored more than a dozen bills this year related to marijuana, with some of them leading toward making it legal for recreational use if the bills pass.

And should marijuana become legal, that could spell disaster for immigrants in the state seeking to become citizens. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department announced recently that any immigrants who have a link to marijuana can be denied citizenship.

That guideline is published in the updated USCIS policy manual. In its summary of the update, USCIS said the policy clarifies "that violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, remains a conditional bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law."

Federal law bars marijuana usage, and the agency warned there could be consequences for any immigrant who possesses, distributes, dispenses or manufactures cannabis.

USCIS is "using the war on drugs to go after migrant community and that's what they've been doing since day one," Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance told NBC News.

The USCIS stand runs counter to how Americans feel about marijuana. A recently released poll from CBS showed that 65% favor legalizing marijuana.

Marijuana won't become legal in Louisiana overnight, but it is an issue that isn't going to go away as more and more states legalize it. The laws are changing quickly across the country and are worth watching in Louisiana, too, for people seeking to become naturalized citizens as long as the U.S. government considers marijuana use or working in a marijuana-related business a violation of "good moral character." The Louisiana legal community undoubtedly will keep an eye on developments moving forward.

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