Medical Marijuana Law and Your Immigration Status
Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act
Here at the Ranchod Law Group we have been seeing an increased number of clients who are green card holders and users of medical marijuana. Recently we had a consultation with a client in our Sacramento office who was questioned about his marijuana he had at the airport even though he had a medical marijuana card. Although the use of medical marijuana or marijuana in general may be legal in your state, at the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, and is illegal. Because immigration is also regulated by federal law and not state law, your legal use of marijuana under state law can still impact your immigration status which is regulated under federal law.
Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that:
any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of a violation of (or conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)), is inadmissible
INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II).
Similarly, section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) of the INA provides that:
[a]ny alien who at time after admission has been convicted of a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802), other than a single offense involving possession for one’s own use of thirty grams or less of marijuana is deportable
INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i).
Pursuant to the above quoted laws, by admitting to using marijuana legally under your state law, you become inadmissible, though not deportable. Inadmissibility is of no consequence to you so long as you remain inside of the U.S. (because you have already been “admitted”) but if you travel outside of the U.S. and attempt to return (get “admitted” to the U.S. again) the finding of “inadmissibility” can lead you to be placed in removal (deportation) proceedings. It is up to the immigration officer whether to look the other way or whether to put you in removal proceedings. Because of this, the most conservative approach you can follow is to remain in the U.S. if you choose to use marijuana as legally allowed by your state.
Once you are naturalized (once you become a U.S. Citizen) you do not need to worry about grounds of inadmissibility or deportability. Unfortunately, however, it is possible that even the legal use of marijuana can be viewed in an unfavorable light in regards to the five years of good moral character required for citizenship. On your citizenship application you will need to answer the following question:
Have you ever committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, even legal users of marijuana must answer “yes” to that question. You would, of course, include a note on your naturalization form regarding your legal use of marijuana.
If you have questions about the effect of your marijuana use on your immigration status or if you want help going through the process of becoming a citizen, please do not hesitate to contact our Sacramento, Santa Clara and San Francisco offices at (916) 613–3553.