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Marijuana and Immigration; Immigrant Criminal Law

Posted by Wais Azami | Apr 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

Even simple use in legal states can still show bad moral character for immigration purposes...

Marijuana and immigration does not mix. That's why I routinely practice "immigrant criminal law." Immigrants must be extra careful not to use marijuana in even states where it's legal to use it.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance that could prevent those with permanent legal status (green card holders) from becoming U.S. citizens if they are suspected of using marijuana.  That's mere suspicion, not even arrest or conviction! 

Many states have legalized medical marijuana, and several states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. But do not assume that using marijuana will not hurt your immigration status. This USCIS guidance establishes that a “violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, established by a conviction or admission, is generally a bar to establishing (good moral character) for naturalization even where the conduct would not be a violation of state law.”

This isn't necessarily a surprise, because marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug and possession of it is still a federal offense.  USCIS officers must take it into consideration when reviewing an application. In the past, visitors to the United States have lost their tourist visas after agency officials checked their phone and found photos of them in front of marijuana dispensaries.

What is new is that this practice is now codified into USCIS guidance — explicitly telling officers that even if there is no drug conviction, and even if the person has not admitted to the offense, they should consider denying the case based on good moral character.

Even if you get your green cards, you should not work for dispensaries.  You should  not be in any business related to marijuana and of course, don't use it.  Those without their US citizenships employed working for the industry could be labeled an “illicit trafficker” and be made eligible for deportation/removal.

This restriction exists even if marijuana is legally prescribed by a medical professional or doctor.  The legality or medical necessity doesn't make it legal under immigration regulations and guidelines.  

There are a lot of talk about the reduction of federal classification of marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, but until then, it's better to play it safe.  You've sacrificed too much to ruin your immigration status.  I would consult with a lawyer before use, purchase, sale or employment relating to marijuana and its industry.  

My posts/blogs are to be taken for academic purposes only and NOT LEGAL ADVICE.  Nothing on my blogs should lead you to believe there is an attorney-client relationship, nor that I am giving legal advice.  Please call my office at (714) 321-9999 for a free consultation to discuss your specific matter where I could then give proper legal advice.

About the Author

Wais Azami

Orange County Criminal Law Attorney Blue-collar fight with a white-collar style. As a local criminal defense attorney in Garden Grove, I offer strong yet affordable representation to the people of Orange County, LA County, Inland Empire and the surrounding areas. Most of my clients have famil...

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