Famed rocker Neil Young, a Canada native who has had a home in the United States for decades, has made it clear he wants to become an American citizen and vote in the 2020 election. He’s also made it clear he’s smoked quite a bit of marijuana through the years.
Apparently, those two things don’t go well together when trying to become a U.S. citizen. According to a new clause in federal law, marijuana use can call into question a person’s “good moral character.”
According to Neil Young, federal officials delayed his application for U.S. citizenship because of this clause. Added in April 2019, it says applicants “involved in certain marijuana-related activities” may lack good moral character.
Of course, cannabis is legal in more than half of U.S. states for either medical or recreational use. In California, where Young has a home, it’s legal for both.
Tripped Up By His Own Honesty
On his website, Young wrote that he had been tripped up because of his honesty about marijuana use.
He wrote: “I want to be a dual citizen and vote. When I applied recently for American citizenship, I passed the test. It was a conversation where I was asked many questions. I answered them truthfully and passed. 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.”
In order to successfully complete the naturalization process, a person must submit a detailed application and go through an interview. They also must take a civics test. Part of the evaluation for citizenship involves consideration of the “good moral character” provision.
The provision can be applied to someone who committed a crime, according to the New York Times. Depending on the severity of the crime, it could disqualify the application temporarily or permanently.
It wasn’t until this year that language was put into the “good moral character” provision that specifically referenced marijuana use, according to the Times.
Young’s Next Steps
According to Young’s post, he is taking a second test. The Times reported that it is unusual because most people are simply rejected and must apply again.
Young told the Los Angeles Times he had hoped to become a citizen by his 74th birthday on Nov 12. Young said “I’m still a Canadian; there’s nothing that can take that away from me. But I live down here; I pay taxes down here; my beautiful family is all down here — they’re all Americans, so I want to register my opinion.”
Young married actress Daryl Hannah in 2018. They live in Santa Monica. In the interview with the Los Angeles Times, Young said he used cannabis for years but stopped in 2011. However, he also said he has since started using it again.
Anastasia Tonello, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the New York Times that if “you’ve done drugs” you may still get approved for citizenship but that it “certainly would complicate the process.”
Neil Young now finds himself in a strange situation. He lives in a state where the very thing that could keep him from being a U.S. citizen is legal for everyone around him to do every day.
On his website, Young remained optimistic, writing, “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.”