Recreational Pot Legalization might mean Trouble for Non-citizens

The US law is very tough on non-citizens and if they commit one of the deportable crimes they may be in big trouble, as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may deport someone without caring how well-established his/her life is or the time he/she has lived in the US.

There are five major types of deportable crimes for California including domestic violence, firearms offences, state controlled drug (substance) offences, aggravated felonies, and crimes of moral turpitude.

The federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows for deportation of any non-citizen living in any state if they committed these crimes regardless of whether they are legal permanent residents, refugees that have been granted asylum, or visa holders (be they work, student visas etc.).

The immediate former leadership had a priority enforcement program which directed the DHS to focus its attention on deportable immigrants who had committed more serious deportable crimes including being members of criminal gangs, committing felonies or aggravated felonies, as well as those with either at least three misdemeanor convictions or significant misdemeanor convictions.

However, when the Trump administration came into office in 2017, the president issued a series of executive orders on immigration that called for more enforcement of immigration laws. This means the DHS will now direct its resources to the deportation of immigrants convicted of deportable crimes, no matter how insignificant they may be.

Any non-citizen living in California should avoid at all costs being convicted of drug crimes. Regardless of whether the crime is serious or not, there is high likelihood of being exported if you are convicted of any drug related offense including simple possession, drug manufacturing, drug transport or sale, or possession of drugs for sale.

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The only exception to this is simple possession of cannabis, as the state now allows possession of up to one once (30 grams). As Proposition 64 allowed for legal possession of small amounts of weed in California, this law might not have much impact now.

INA’s provisions have very harsh results for most immigrants. This is due to the fact that drug offenses convictions are very common and happen so frequently that even the most law abiding individuals might end up being convicted.

Data from a few years back shows that up to a third of the non-citizens deported for deportable criminal convictions were related drug offenses such as illegal weed delivery. For instance, in 2009 around 40k immigrants were deported on grounds of drug conviction.

The Problem

Immigrants in California may think that using cannabis won’t hurt their immigration status, but as we have seen this is totally wrong. The federal has banned use of marijuana for any purpose, and the federal law controls immigration. This means serious trouble for marijuana users.

By admitting to immigration officials that they have ever used cannabis, individuals put themselves at a very high risk of facing prosecution and eventually deportation as this can be used as evidence against them. It does not matter whether they were using weed at home, they were never convicted of any crime, or state law has allowed cannabis use.

If an individual is deported from the US, they will have problems with future efforts to travel into or out of the nation, or when questioned by the ICE. This means more trouble, yet the cause for all these can be avoided simply by following the law.

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Marijuana issues are of major concern to immigration officers, and they are investigating more people concerning their use of weed. Noncitizens in states where weed use is legal are their major concern.

How to stay safe

Avoiding running into trouble is easier that struggling to win your freedom when convicted. Here are a few tips on how you can avoid trouble in the first case.

Never use marijuana until you are granted citizenship and also never work in cannabis dispensaries.

If you are a patient that must use weed for medical purposes because no other alternative can work, first consult an attorney.

Avoid leaving your house while carrying cannabis, a marijuana recommendation card, marijuana promotional material and clothing, or weed smoking paraphernalia. Also, don’t have text or photos about you and weed on your computer, phone, social media or any other place.

As well, never admit to a border or migration official that you ever have smoked weed or taken cannabis-infused edibles, unless you have consulted an attorney on this and he or she has said it will be okay.

In case you encounter federal officers and they ask you anything relating to weed or weed use, just remain silent and request to answer through your lawyer. It is your constitutional right to remain silent and they won’t force you to speak or answer.

Stand your ground as any word you speak can be used as evidence against you. If you ever admit under any circumstances, seek legal assistance as quickly as possible.

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