California was one of the states that pioneered the legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use. If you’re an adult over 21 years of age or hold a medical marijuana card, you can largely buy, keep and consume marijuana legally from any state-approved dispensary — unless you’re an immigrant who is not yet a citizen of the United States.

If you want to use marijuana, the State of California doesn’t care whether you’re an immigrant or not. The federal government, however, does. Since marijuana still remains illegal under federal drug laws, an immigrant can run into serious problems if they are caught with marijuana or even admit to ever having used the drug. It won’t matter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whether you obtained the drug legally or not.

With that in mind, immigrants need to be careful when it comes to marijuana:

  • Keep any pro-cannabis sentiments to yourself. Don’t go out of the house wearing a pro-marijuana shirt, and don’t post pro-marijuana messages on your social media.
  • Don’t have any marijuana-related items or paraphernalia on your person, even if there are no traces of the drug on or in it.
  • Don’t go anywhere near a marijuana dispensary. Don’t work there, hang out around one or walk in to one — just in case ICE is watching.

Finally, never admit to an ICE agent or any other authority that you have used marijuana or hold a medical marijuana card unless you’ve talked to an attorney first. If asked, remember that you have the right to refuse to talk with the authorities until you’ve spoken with your legal counsel. Don’t let a marijuana charge thwart your plans for citizenship.