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Marijuana use can have serious adverse effects on your immigration proceedings. 

Non-citizens residing in states where marijuana is legal (currently 36 states and the District of Columbia)  may not realize that on the federal level, possession of marijuana is still illegal, even for medical use.  It is a punishable offense, and federal law is what governs immigration.    

A Marijuana Conviction Can Make a Noncitizen 

  • Deportable
  • Inadmissible
  • Temporarily Barred from Establishing Good Moral Character on their Citizenship Application                
  • A Felon 

Immigration Consequences of Cannabis Use

Permanent residents found to possess marijuana can be deported, even if the state in which they reside has legalized marijuana. Worse still, it is not necessary to have a criminal or felony conviction to be deportable for drug use. Even growing and using a marijuana plant at home for medical purposes, or possessing a small amount of marijuana within one’s own home is a federal drug offense. 

An application for lawful status or naturalization in the U.S. can be denied if an individual admits to possession of marijuana or other controlled substance violations. In some states, such as Washington, border or immigration authority agents have aggressively asked noncitizens if they ever have possessed marijuana in an attempt to find people inadmissible. 

general advice on marijuana Use regarding U. S. immigration laws

For the reason stated above it’s important to pay attention to this general advice:

  • Stay away from marijuana until you are a U.S. citizen. 
  • If you truly need medical marijuana, get a legal consult.
  • Never discuss conduct involving marijuana with immigration, border, consular, or law enforcement authorities — unless your immigration attorney has advised that this is safe. 
  • Do not carry marijuana, a medical marijuana card, or marijuana stickers, t-shirts, etc. Remove any text or photos relating to marijuana from your social media and phone.  
  • If you have used marijuana, or worked in the marijuana industry, get a legal consult before leaving the United States or applying for naturalization or immigration status.   
consequences of cannabis use on american immigration laws

Even employment in the legitimate cannabis industry can result in the following penalties: 

  • You may be inadmissible because the government has reason to believe you participate in drug trafficking.
  • You may be inadmissible for admitting a controlled substance offense, such as handling or preparing marijuana. 
  • Employment in the industry (like admission of conduct) is a bar to establishing good moral character required for naturalization, even if it is legal under state law.
  • You may be potentially inadmissible under the national security/terrorism ground provisions if you are found to be “traveling to the United States solely, principally, or incidentally to engage in ‘any other unlawful activity. ’”  and this includes intent to engage with the cannabis industry, including as an employee. 

If you have found yourself in any of these situations, and now risk being inadmissible to the U.S., all is not lost. You may be eligible for a “waiver” of inadmissibility, but this depends on many factors. Therefore, it’s important to see qualified legal counsel before applying for immigration status.