Legalized Marijuana and Immigration Consequences

Several states have begun the process of legalizing the use of marijuana.  In November 2018, Michigan passed a proposal that allows marijuana to be regulated similarly to alcohol.

Possession of marijuana, however, remains a federal offense and can lead to several immigration consequences.  With immigration, it is federal law that counts.  Even if the conduct is permitted under state law, a noncitizen who admits to an immigration official that they have possessed marijuana may be denied entry to the United States, have their application for adjustment of status or naturalization denied, or even be found deportable.  This includes possession of marijuana for medical purposes.

Noncitizens may be found inadmissible if they have been convicted of or admit having committed a violation of any law relating to a controlled substance.  This includes possession of marijuana.

There is a narrow waiver for this inadmissibly ground, but only for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, and the noncitizen must meet other strict requirements in order to qualify for this waiver.

And even a noncitizen who has been admitted to the United States, for example as a permanent resident, a visitor, or a student, may be deported for any drug-related crime, other than a single offense involving possession for personal use of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

For noncitizens, it is very important to understand the consequences of marijuana possession.  Noncitizens must be careful when asked about marijuana use by an immigration official or even a doctor at a medical visa interview.  As described above, merely admitting to the possession of marijuana can result in being inadmissible to the United States.

If you are inadmissible to the United States and you are applying for entry into the country, you will not be allowed into the country unless you qualify for a waiver and you are subsequently approved for that waiver.  If you apply for adjustment of status and are found inadmissible, your application will be denied unless you qualify and obtain a waiver approval as well.

For naturalization applicants, it is also important to understand the consequences that marijuana possession raises.  USCIS might deny the naturalization application of a permanent resident who has just one conviction for simple possession of marijuana for personal use in the last five years.

Noncitizens need to take heed when it comes to possession of marijuana.  Even if you live in a state where the use of marijuana is legalized, you could still face severe immigration consequences because possession of marijuana is still a federal offense.

Posted in Crimes & U.S. Immigration, U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization, Waivers of Inadmissibility.