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Immigrantion and legal marijuana use: What you need to know

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2017 | Immigration Detention

It’s no secret that noncitizens are facing tough times in the United States right now and that immigrantion and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are taking a hard approach to immigrants whenever there’s a question about whether or not something is a deportable offense.

This makes it particularly important to keep the following things in mind when it comes to the use of medical marijuana:

  1. While California has joined the growing body of states that have begun to treat marijuana as a legitimate drug for medical purposes and also allows some recreational use, the drug is still illegal under federal rules — which govern the world of the noncitizen.
  2. If you are a noncitizen who has a medical marijuana card, you need to be incredibly cautious about carrying it with you. If you are detained or questioned by officers from ICE and they discover that you have a medical marijuana card, they can use it as grounds to deport you even if you have a Visa or status as a permanent resident.
  3. It isn’t just the stereotypical immigrant with a minimum-wage job that is being targeted for deportation — your status and work record won’t do anything to help you if you are caught in this trap — there are numerous reports of successful businessmen with strong ties to the United States who have had their Visas revoked and been permanently barred from reentry based solely on the possession of medical marijuana cards.

Legal experts are offering some basic pieces of advice for all noncitizens if they are approached by ICE agents or any government officials:

  • Do not admit to use of marijuana in the past, even for medical purposes.
  • Do not seek employment in the medical marijuana field.
  • Do not leave your home carrying a medical marijuana card, cannabis, cannabis products, clothing or pins that show support for legalized cannabis, or anything that is considered drug paraphernalia (like rolling papers).

Most importantly, exercise your right to remain silent. You can’t take back something once it’s been said, so turn a deaf ear to pressure tactics and just keep repeating that you want to speak to an attorney. If you’re in danger of deportation due to medical marijuana use, an attorney can provide information on your legal options.

Source:, “immigrantion Consequences of Drug Offenses Handout,” accessed Oct. 04, 2017