Marijuana and immigration have an interesting entanglement in the U.S. due to new laws all over the country permitting medical and recreational cannabis sales. The trouble is, while states like California and Colorado have legal marijuana laws, it is still illegal to sell, possess, produce, grow or distribute the substance under federal law. Immigration, as a whole, is a federal issue and therefore the two cannot coexist without repercussions. In fact, doing so will likely jeopardize someone’s immigration status or pursuit of becoming a U.S. citizen.
If someone is caught with marijuana, the status of one’s visa, green card, asylum case, etc. will be determined by the U.S. Department of State or The Department of Homeland Security and their subsidiaries. This may include the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
How Authorities Learn About You and Marijuana
- The Medical Exam – If you are applying to become a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card holder), you will be required to attend a medical exam. If you tell the physician about occasional marijuana use, or it was found in your system through testing, this information in unfavorable within the immigration system. The federal government can access this data and use this to deny your application for a Green Card – and can initiate deportation proceedings.
- Social Media – Authorities like ICE are constantly monitoring physical and online spaces that many undocumented people don’t realize. For example, if you post something about selling or using marijuana on your social media page, this too can be used to deny you access into the U.S.
- Upon Entry at the Border – Upon crossing into the U.S., if CBP officers find you in possession of marijuana, this will likely result in fines, seizure, arrest and denied access into America. Any items that are brought across the border are subject to inspection including children’s possessions, mobile phones, clothing, bags, etc.
- Working in the Cannabis Industry – Even if you have obtained “legal” employment at a facility that legally distributes, grows or sells marijuana, it can negatively impact your immigration status into the United States.
- Green Card Holders – Lawful permanent residents are also held to a higher standard and cannot participate in the illegal or legal marijuana industries. If found working legally or illegally with the drug, the government can initiate deportation proceedings against you.
Tips For Non-U.S. Citizens in Regards to Marijuana
- Do not grow, traffic, distribute, sell, use or work for anyone in connection to marijuana.
- Those who need medical marijuana should seek an immigration attorney for assistance – and should find a non-illegal substitute (e.g. a prescription drug) until your immigration case is completed.
- Stay clear of marijuana paraphernalia including stickers, wearables, social media, etc.
- Don’t speak about marijuana with USCIS, ICE, CPB or an embassy without legal help.
Anyone going through the immigration process who has questions about or entanglements with marijuana should seek the help of an immigration lawyer as soon as possible. Legal advice is needed for many of these cases in order to avoid being deported or denied access into the U.S. Call the legal team of Landerholm Immigration today to set up an appointment so you know your rights.