Rock icon Neil Young said on Friday that his bid to become a U.S. citizen is in jeopardy because he was honest with immigration authorities about his cannabis use. Young is a Canadian citizen but has lived in the United States for decades.
In a statement posted to his website on Friday, Young said that he had decided to become a U.S. citizen so that he could vote and reported initial success navigating the naturalization process.
“When I recently applied for American citizenship, I passed the test,” Young wrote. “It was a conversation where I was asked many questions. I answered them truthfully and passed.”
But recently, he heard again from immigration authorities and was “told that I must do another test, due to my use of marijuana and how some people who smoke it have exhibited a problem.”
Do Cannabis Users Lack Good Moral Character?
That problem, Young was told, stems from a clarification of policy made by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in April. In it, authorities wrote that applicants for citizenship “involved in certain marijuana related activities,” even if they are legal under state law, may lack good moral character, citing the continued prohibition of cannabis under federal law.
Young lives in California, one of 10 states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, and has been forthcoming about his use of marijuana for years. In his statement, Young said that he hopes that won’t prevent him from becoming a citizen and participating in his adopted country’s democracy.
“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,” he wrote, promising to keep his fans updated on any developments in his quest for U.S. citizenship.
When Legal Pot Isn’t Legal
A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services told the New York Times that he could not comment on an individual application, but noted that “federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.”
Young revealed his intention to become a U.S. citizen to the Los Angeles Times last month, at a time when he was cautiously optimistic about his prospects for success.
“I’ve passed all the tests; I’ve got my appointment, and if everything goes as planned, I’ll be taking the oath of citizenship,” he said, adding “I’ll be able to vote.”
Young, who lost his home in last year’s Woolsey Fire, lives in Malibu with his wife, actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah. But, he said, he’ll always be a citizen of Canada, where he was born in 1945.
“I’m still a Canadian; there’s nothing that can take that away from me,” he said.
However, Young decided that he also wanted to be able to express his views at the ballot box, particularly about pressing issues including climate change.
“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,” he said.