Immigration And Criminal Defense Lawyers

Cannabis, immigration and you: What to know

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Moving to a new country brings with it a lot of challenges for the average immigrant, no matter what their legal status. One area that can be particularly confusing is understanding the regulations surrounding marijuana use, both for medical and recreational purposes.

Attitudes in the United States toward cannabis use have shifted dramatically in recent years. Many states, including California, now permit cannabis to be used both medicinally and recreationally – but immigrants who are not naturalized citizens still need to exercise a great deal of caution in this area.

Why is cannabis a problem for immigrants when it’s legal in California?

Essentially, it all comes down to the way that federal and state laws intersect on this issue. While the federal government has largely taken a “hand-off” approach to what individual states have chosen to do regarding the legalization of cannabis, marijuana still remains a Schedule I drug (even though the Food and Drug Administration recently recommended a change). 

That means marijuana is in the same legal category as heroin – and it’s officially considered more dangerous than fentanyl. It’s also still a federal crime to possess or use cannabis, and immigrants who admit to its use (or are caught with it in their possession) can be considered guilty of “moral turpitude.” That’s enough to get you deported.

So what do you need to keep in mind about cannabis products and use, even in states where marijuana is legal? 

  • Do not apply for a medical marijuana card or act as someone’s caregiver in a medical marijuana program.
  • Do not work in any marijuana-related business, even legal grow operations or dispensaries.
  • Do not broadcast your support for marijuana in any way, including on social media posts.

 Finally, do not ever discuss marijuana use or possession with any law enforcement authority or immigration official – no matter how long ago it may have been. If you have ever used marijuana in the past or been employed in the industry, you may want to seek experienced legal guidance on your immigration journey.