In a previous article (Immigration and State Legalization of Marijuana), we highlighted some issues that may arise at various stages of immigration-related matters when it comes to a noncitizen’s marijuana-related conduct (use, possession, purchase, sale, etc.). We explained that because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level (both medical and recreational use), immigration officials are allowed to ask questions about marijuana-related conduct and make certain determinations based on that. For instance, a noncitizen returning to the United States who admits to having used marijuana can be deemed inadmissible at the border. Marijuana-related conduct can also have consequences for a noncitizen’s immigration status at any point until he or she becomes a naturalized citizen. This article provides more detail regarding the green card process and marijuana-related conduct.
Green Cards and Admissibility
A fundamental requirement of obtaining a green card is showing that you are admissible. Violating federal controlled substance law will make you inadmissible. If the government asks you if you have used or possessed marijuana, or if you have committed a drug offense, you do not have good choices in how you respond.
– If you admit to any marijuana related conduct inside or outside the United States, you will be deemed inadmissible, based on having made an admission to a federal crime.
– If you decline to answer the question, you will not be deemed inadmissible. However, your application will likely be denied due to a negative inference drawn from your refusal to answer.
– A false response, by saying “no”, carries potential consequences as well. If the government finds out that you lied, then you will be subject to inadmissibility based on misrepresentation and marijuana-related conduct.
What if I just work in the cannabis industry in a state where it is legal, and have never used it myself?
Even if you never used marijuana, there can be very harsh penalties if you have worked in the cannabis industry. Employment in the cannabis industry can result in the following penalties:
– You can be found inadmissible because of a finding that you participated in drug trafficking;
– You can be found inadmissible because you admitted a controlled substance offense; and
– You can be found inadmissible under national security and terrorism grounds of inadmissibility.
USCIS officers have a certain amount of discretion when it comes to deciding admissibility when marijuana-related conduct is involved, but you never know who will be adjudicating your application. Due to this uncertainty, the safest route is to avoid marijuana altogether until you are naturalized as an America citizen.
This is a complex and evolving area of the law. If you have questions regarding your particular situation, please contact our attorneys at the Law Offices of Azita M. Mojarad. Our experienced attorneys stand ready to assist you.