As of 2019, thirty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and ten states have also legalized it for recreational purposes. However, if you’re not a U.S. citizen, any use of marijuana is a violation, and you may need legal help from a Las Vegas immigration attorney.
It remains against federal law in the United States to possess marijuana for any reason, even if the state you are in allows marijuana for recreational or medical purposes. In fact, the immigration penalties for marijuana possession or use can be severe.
If you are not a citizen of the United States, and if you tell an immigration officer that you have ever possessed marijuana, that can be enough to disqualify you from getting a green card, naturalizing, or re-entering the United States after traveling outside the country.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE DEPORTED FOR MARIJUANA?
From 2003 through August 2018, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, more than 45,000 people were deported for the possession of marijuana.
In April, for example, in a case that made national news, two residents of Denver – green card holders – were rejected for U.S. citizenship because they had worked in the legal Colorado cannabis industry.
Having a marijuana conviction expunged might help you find employment and housing, but expunging a marijuana conviction won’t help you with immigration authorities. They’re allowed to see expunged convictions, and if they find a marijuana conviction, deportation is possible.
HOW SHOULD IMMIGRANTS DEAL WITH THE MARIJUANA ISSUE?
Particularly in those states that have legalized marijuana, immigration officers are asking non-citizens if they have ever used marijuana – even non-citizens who’ve never been accused of any marijuana-related crimes. Here’s how non-citizens should deal with the matter:
- Know the law. Visa-holders can be deported for any marijuana possession or use.
- Do not seek employment in the marijuana industry – even in a medical facility.
- Never carry marijuana, a medical marijuana card, or marijuana paraphernalia.
Don’t post anything about marijuana on social media – like a picture of yourself wearing a marijuana T-shirt. Never discuss marijuana with an immigration or border official. If the official is persistent, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an immigration lawyer at once.
WHERE CAN YOU GET THE LEGAL ADVICE YOU NEED?
If you need marijuana for medical purposes, and if a doctor recommends marijuana for you, speak to an immigration attorney right away. Every situation is unique, so you are going to need specific and personalized legal advice.
In June 2019, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduce legislation – the “Remove Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act” – that would end deportations based on marijuana offenses. The legislation also allows readmission for those previously deported solely for marijuana offenses.
IS THE LAW ABOUT TO CHANGE?
That legislation may or may not become law. For now, if you hold a visa or a green card and you have a conviction or even an arrest for a marijuana violation, if you work in the marijuana industry, or if a doctor has recommended medical marijuana for you, speak to an attorney.
If you are dealing with any legal issue related to immigration, or if you are seeking a visa or a green card, an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can help. You need experienced representation any time you are dealing with the immigration authorities, and that is your right.