Neil Young’s cannabis use puts US citizenship request at risk

Published on November 14, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Though Neil Young has lived in California since the 1960s, he’s always retained his Canadian passport.

Only just recently has the folk-rocker turned godfather of grunge gotten around to applying for dual citizenship, and in doing so, he ran up against a very 2019 problem: he learned his cannabis use might prevent him from becoming an American.

In a note on his website, Young explains “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. 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.”

He quoted the April 2019 USCIS Policy Alert from Attorney Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, which specifies, “An applicant who is involved in certain marijuana related activities may lack GMC (Good Moral Character) if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state or foreign laws.”

For much of his career, Young has been a prolific cannabis user, whom the New York Times described as smoking joints “the way others smoke cigarettes.”

In 2005, however, Young quit cannabis following a brain aneurysm, and followed that by quitting alcohol in 2012 while he was writing his memoir.

Cannabis Is Exactly 114 Times Less Toxic Than Alcohol

“I did it for 40 years,” he said at the time. “Now I want to see what it’s like to not do it. It’s just a different perspective.”

By 2014, however, he’d returned to cannabis in moderation, though he noted consuming new weed only accentuated the fact that “I’m still high from the seventies.”
Last month, Young said he had only one test remaining—presumably related to his moral character—before he could take his oath of citizenship ahead of his 74th birthday on Nov. 12.

There’s no telling how long the final test will delay his application, but Young is public about his plan to use his citizenship to oppose President Trump.

“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 unnamed),” Young wrote.

Young’s disdain for Donald Trump has a history. In 2014, Trump called Young one of his favourite musicians, but last year, Young asked Trump to stop playing his song “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

“I asked him […] in a widely shared, public letter to cease and desist [playing the song after Trump used it to announced his candidacy],” Young wrote. “However, he chose not to listen to my request, just as he chooses not to listen to the many American voices who ask him to stop his constant lies.”

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Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse Staniforth reports on cannabis, food safety, and Indigenous issues. He is the former editor of WeedWeek Canada.
View Jesse B. Staniforth's articles
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