Immigration Consequences for Marijuana, Despite State Law Changes

In recent years, many states in the United States have legalized the use, possession, and sale of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. However, despite these state law changes, marijuana remains illegal under federal law and non-citizens can still face serious immigration consequences for marijuana offenses.

First, it is important to understand that marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law and it is considered to be a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Non-citizens who are convicted of a drug-related offense, including marijuana offenses, can be subject to removal proceedings, which is the process by which a non-citizen is removed from the United States.

If a non-citizen is convicted of a marijuana offense, they may be placed in removal proceedings if they are in the United States without lawful status. If the non-citizen is a lawful permanent resident (LPR), also known as a green card holder, they can be placed in removal proceedings and may lose their LPR status if the marijuana conviction is considered to be an “aggravated felony.” An Aggravated Felony considered as any crime that carries a sentence of one year or longer.

Furthermore, non-citizens who are convicted of marijuana offenses may also be inadmissible to the United States. Inadmissibility means that a non-citizen is not allowed to enter the United States because of a past criminal conviction or other factors. If a non-citizen is inadmissible, they may not be able to return to the United States, even if they are the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen or LPR.

It is important to note that not all marijuana offenses will result in immigration consequences. The severity of the crime and the circumstances surrounding the offense will be considered when determining if a marijuana conviction is considered an “aggravated felony.” Additionally, the state law in which the conviction occurred also be considered. Even if a state law considers possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor and not a felony, it could be considered as an “aggravated felony” under federal immigration law and would be treated accordingly.

It is important for non-citizens to be aware of the potential immigration consequences of marijuana offenses, even if the state law has changed. If you are a non-citizen and have been charged with a marijuana offense, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney who can advise you of your rights and the potential immigration consequences of your case. An immigration attorney can also help you to explore all the possible immigration remedies, such as cancellation of removal or other forms of relief that may be available to you.

In conclusion, even though many states have legalized marijuana, non-citizens should be aware that marijuana offenses can still result in serious immigration consequences. If you are a non-citizen and have been charged with a marijuana offense, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible.