The laws around marijuana can be confusing for anyone. While it’s still illegal under federal law, state laws vary widely. Here in California, it’s legal to possess, sell and grow for adult recreational and medical use — with a number of exceptions and restrictions.
People who are not U.S. citizens are among those for whom the use of marijuana or even being around it could have serious consequences. That’s because immigration law is controlled by the federal government, which still classifies marijuana in the same category as far more dangerous illegal drugs.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) isn’t cracking down on the enforcement of laws around marijuana the way it did under the previous administration. However, as one California public defender reminds people, “For immigrants, anyone who is convicted of possession of over 30 grams of marijuana, whether here legally or not, will be deportable.”
Why any contact with marijuana can be risky for non-citizens
Immigration rights advocates urge non-U.S. citizens not to possess or use marijuana. It’s certainly unwise to work in a dispensary or deliver marijuana, even if you don’t use it yourself. Even possession of marijuana paraphernalia, just like any drug paraphernalia, could result in legal trouble.
It’s crucial to be especially careful when you’re entering or leaving the U.S. Even wearing a T-shirt with a marijuana-related image or logo on it could get you detained. It’s also important to make sure you don’t have any photos or videos on your phone or social media pages using or even in the vicinity of marijuana.
What if you need marijuana for a medical condition?
Federal law makes no distinction between using marijuana for medical purposes and recreational purposes. If you have a condition for which marijuana is the best treatment, it’s wise to seek legal guidance before you get a medical marijuana card.
If you’re questioned by law enforcement officers or border or immigration officials about marijuana, don’t answer those questions until you have legal guidance. Of course, you should always seek such guidance if you have any concerns or questions about legal consequences for yourself or a loved one.