What Immigrants Need to Know About Marijuana Use

What Immigrants Need to Know About Marijuana Use


Here in Pennsylvania medical marijuana is legal at the state level, even though recreational use remains illegal. It is easy to find medical marijuana dispensaries.

This reality has led many immigrants who live and work here in the state of confusion and has even gotten them into trouble. After all, it’s hard to imagine the act of smoking marijuana could be illegal when there are literally businesses sitting right out there on street corners near you. 

Yet it is vital to remember that immigration is a federal legal matter, not a matter of state law. That means any time you apply for an immigration benefit it’s going to be your compliance with federal law that matters, not your compliance with state law.

At the federal level, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 narcotic, just as illegal as heroin or cocaine. There are not even any federal exceptions for medical use, even if you have a medical marijuana card or permission from a doctor to use marijuana for medical purposes.

If you admit to using marijuana or if you fail a federal drug test while inside the borders of the United States you could be found inadmissible, denied entry to the United States at the border, or see your application for a visa, for a green card, or for citizenship denied. 

In some cases even lawful permanent residents, people who have been through the gruelling process of obtaining a green card, have been deported as a result of their involvement for medical marijuana. This has happened even when the LPR has only ever used medical marijuana in their very own home.

Those who are trying to apply to come into the country from their home countries are subject to their own country’s law, but may still be placed on a one year plan remain drug free which will require regular drug tests. 

Immigrants must even be careful about where they work, because if you obtain employment in the cannabis industry then you can be charged with “drug trafficking,” even if your position was such that you never touched, saw, or interacted with marijuana in any way. 

In addition, making political statements on social media in support of marijuana legalization, obtaining marijuana paraphernalia (even t-shirts), or carrying a medical marijuana card can be grounds for inadmissibility, visa denial, green card denial, or the denial of entry. 

When asked questions about medical marijuana or cannabis use of any kind you should invoke your right to remain silent and consult with an attorney. If you know you’ve used marijuana in the past and are seeking an immigration benefit you should consult with an attorney prior to proceeding so that you can handle these questions in a way that does not preclude you meeting your immigration goals.

It may not seem entirely fair, but the truth is you probably cannot safely make marijuana a part of your life until and unless you are a full United States Citizen with all the rights and privileges thereof.

See also: 

How Social Media Impacts Your Immigration Case

How Does a Dismissed Criminal Case Impact a Citizenship Application

Why An Immigration Attorney is Your Best Bet

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