Think First Before You Take That Hit of Marijuana!

Marijuana, pot, weed, grass, 420, ganja, dope, herb, joint, blunt, cannabis, reefer, buds, boom, blaze, burnie – whatever you want to refer to it as, if you are not a US citizen – take note!

If you are in the United States as anyone other than a US citizen, you are held to the federal law of the United States when it comes to certain crimes, even if state law differs. Therefore, even though, as of October 19, 2018, 31 states and the District of Columbia have broadly legalized marijuana in some form it is still illegal for you!

For example, let’s say you are in the United States working on an O visa in California, and your mate Brandon (who is a US citizen) offers you a joint. Can you take a hit?  The simple answer is no because federal law controls anyone that is not a US citizen, and it still remains a federal offense to possess, give away, sell, cultivate, import or export marijuana (by virtue of Schedule 1(c)(17) of 21 U.S.C. § 812 which makes marijuana a Schedule 1 controlled substance).

Of more concern to a non-US citizen, is even if you admit to an immigration official or border patrol officer that you have ever previously used marijuana (and don’t be fooled by the blasé questioning that you may experience by the officer to lull you into a false sense of security), you may be found to be inadmissible to the United States.

The above consequences can occur even if you have never even been convicted of a crime related to marijuana. Solely admitting to having engaged in marijuana use can jeopardize your status in the United States and your ability to return. To make matters worse, sometimes even evidence of you participating in its use (without an admission) is enough to warrant the grave consequences listed above.

What should you do?

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center provides the following recommendations to immigrants:

  • Don’t use marijuana until you are a U.S. citizen.
  • Don’t work in the marijuana industry.
  • If you have a real medical need and there is no good substitute for medical marijuana, get legal counsel first.
  • Never leave the house carrying marijuana, a medical marijuana card, paraphernalia (like a pipe), or anything related to or referencing marijuana (e.g. T-shirts or stickers). Don’t have photos or texts about you and marijuana on your phone, Facebook, or anywhere else.
  • Never discuss marijuana use or possession with any immigration or border official, unless you have expert legal advice that this is OK. If you do admit this to a federal officer, get legal help quickly.

So next time your good mate Brandon offers you a hit of marijuana, think again. If you are not a US citizen and have encountered any issues related to marijuana use or possession, feel free to contact us for legal advice.

Please note that a conviction relating to a controlled substance like marijuana may also cause grounds for deportation or inability to naturalize in the United States.

At Szew Law Group, we can help you with your US immigration and international business legal matters.

Author: Bruno Confalone and Andrea Szew

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