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With Marijuana/Cannabis legalization, a lot of very exciting business and personal opportunities are opening up for the State residents that can get into these new business opportunities. However, a word of caution for immigrant populations: the use and possession of Cannabis is still banned at the federal level. As such, noncitizens should be extra careful when it comes to Cannabis. This article will focus on the following:
- What are the immigration consequences of using cannabis?
- What are the immigration consequences of investing in cannabis if I am already a legal permanent resident (LPR)?
- Can I be deported for using cannabis?
- Can I get an E-2 or E-5 visa if I want to invest in Cannabis?
Until federal law changes, the use and possession of cannabis should be discouraged if you are not a US Citizen to avoid any problems with regards to your immigration status. If you or someone you know have questions about immigration in general or about Cannabis in Illinois, please give us a call to 630-324-6666 to speak with an attorney.
What are the immigration consequences of using cannabis?
The use, distribution or production of a controlled substance is a federal offense. Currently, Cannabis is listed as a schedule 1 controlled substance. This means that its production, distribution and use are banned for the general public because the Federal government believes that schedule 1 drugs have a high potential for abuse and currently have no accepted medical usage. Until this situation changes by legislation, the medical and personal use of Cannabis will be a federal crime that a prosecutor can bring against a person or a business.
Because of this, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) makes a foreign national who uses, distributes or invests in Cannabis both inadmissible and deportable. Inadmissibility means that it will be difficult for a person who fits within these subsections to gain or renew a visa. Meanwhile, deportability means that a foreign national who fits within these subsections and is already inside the Country could be removed for violating the terms of their visa or the INA itself. The Federal government has taken a strong stance against drug use and possession inside the country. This is partly because the Federal government does not want foreign nationals involved in the drug trade to come into the USA, and, if they managed to get a visa, the USA wants a reason to find that these individuals are removable from the Country.
Does this apply even if I am consuming medical Cannabis?
Unfortunately, yes. Currently there are no federal exceptions for the medical use of cannabis. Since cannabis is listed as a schedule 1 substance, the federal government does not believe it has a possible medical usage.
What are the immigration consequences of investing in cannabis if I am already a legal permanent resident (LPR)?
If a person is already an LPR, they may believe that investing in or opening a cannabis business makes good business sense since Cannabis is a growing industry legalized inside several states. The global marijuana market is projected to grow at an impressive rate for the foreseeable future. However, investing in the distribution and use of cannabis could make an LPR deportable. USCIS and the INA punishes the possession, manufacture or production, or distribution or dispensing of marijuana. If an LPR decides to work in one of these industries, they should avoid from engaging in foreign travel to avoid issues upon admission.
Additionally, investing in Cannabis could also interfere with an LPR’s ability to naturalize. Breaking federal law could make an immigration officer decide that the applicant does not have the requisite moral character to become a citizen. This decision could be reached for both engaging in the use (either medical or recreational), or for working at any level of the production or distribution of cannabis products. This has happened around the Country, especially in states that have decided to legalize marijuana sooner than the rest. While a person is still using or working in the cannabis industry, they will be deemed to not have the requisite good moral character to become a citizen until several years after they stop their use or involvement in the cannabis industry. This could also change if there is federal action, however, such action is unforeseeable at this time.
To avoid any issues, it is advisable for noncitizens to avoid getting involved in the medical or recreational use, sale, manufacture or transportation of cannabis until the person becomes a citizen. And, even then, they should consult with an immigration attorney if they need to bring a family member through the family petition process. Remember, LPR’s are still subject to the INA, and they should obey its provisions to avoid immigration problems while naturalizing or leaving the country.
Can I be deported for using cannabis?
Yes, a person who uses, possesses, manufactures, produces or distributes marijuana can be deported from the Country. There is a safe harbor provision: the one time use or possession of 30 grams of cannabis or less.
Even if the applicant was not convicted of a crime, conviction in the immigration sense is broader. If an applicant provides enough information so that an immigration officer can reasonably conclude that the person was involved in the possession, manufacture or production, or distribution or dispensing of marijuana, then that applicant could be deemed to have been convicted of an immigration offense. An immigration officer can be: the person at the point of entry or border (Customs and Border Protection (CBP)), the actual agents enforcing immigration law inside the US’s borders (Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)), or the immigration benefits civil service employees who interview immigrants to determine whether they qualify for an immigration benefit(Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS). Providing this information during admission or at any other time could be detrimental to that applicant’s chances for admission or to receive a benefit. A person should not have in their person any cannabis paraphernalia, medical marijuana card, joints, cannabis plant, smell, or anything relating to cannabis while in the proximity of an immigration agent.
Can I get an E-2 or EB-5 visa if I want to invest in Cannabis?
For the above stated reasons, a noncitizen should avoid investing in cannabis. Again, investing in cannabis, even if the investor is not working directly with the plant, could be considered to be facilitating the manufacture or production, or distribution or dispensing of marijuana. It is very unlikely that the federal government will allow the admission of an individual who will be engaged in the cannabis industry. This is subject to change upon the passage of legislation addressing the legalization of cannabis nationwide.
If you or someone you know have questions about immigration in general or about Cannabis in Illinois, please give us a call to 630-324-6666 to speak with an attorney.