Many people are surprised to learn that although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law. Immigration law is federal, and therefore the use, production or distribution of marijuana can jeopardize your immigration status if you are not a U.S. citizen.
If the Department of State, through its U.S. consulates and embassies, or the Department of Homeland Security, through any of its three bureaus–U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)– determine you have violated marijuana laws, your eligibility for any immigration-related benefit such as a visa, lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship could be impacted.
For example, if you are applying for permanent residence (either in the United States or abroad), the doctor conducting your medical exam may ask you about drug use. If you admit to the doctor that you have used marijuana, or if marijuana is discovered in your system, this information will be shared with the federal government and your application will be denied.
In addition, both USCIS and consular officers may have access to an applicants’ social media account, so please think twice before posting anything related to marijuana on social media.
If a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer determines you have violated any marijuana-related laws when crossing the border, this may result in seizure, fines, and/or arrest and you may not be allowed to enter the country. CBP officers can inspect automobiles and anything you are carrying when you cross the border, including your mobile phone.
Working in, or facilitating the cannabis industry, even though it may be legal in a U.S. state or in Canada, can affect your ability to receive immigration benefits or relief and/or entry into the United States.
Lawful permanent residents (aka “green card holders”) are not exempt from this law. Depending on the circumstances, violation of federal marijuana laws can make a lawful permanent resident deportable.
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, stay away from marijuana
- If you need medical marijuana and there is not a good substitute, seek the advice of an immigration attorney first
- 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 cannabis industry, speak to an immigration attorney before leaving the United States or before applying for naturalization or any immigration benefit
- Never discuss conduct involving marijuana with employees or officers of the USCIS, ICE, CBP, Embassy, or with law enforcement authorities — unless your immigration attorney has advised that it is safe to do so
If you have any questions about federal marijuana law and how it may affect your immigration status, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (714) 494-4545.