Marijuana Use, While Legal in Some U.S. States, May Raise Immigration Concerns
July 24, 2019
Weaver Schlenger wishes to advise clients and others of the potential risks involved in using, selling or growing marijuana, or visiting marijuana dispensaries, even if these actions are legal in some U.S. states.
Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, which governs immigration eligibility, including visas, permanent residence and citizenship. This means that even when certain actions have been decriminalized by state laws, a violation of federal laws can occur.
Eligibility for U.S. Citizenship
In April of this year, the USCIS issued a Policy Alert which reminded immigration adjudicators that the possession, use, sale, distribution and production of marijuana remain illegal under U.S. federal law and can prevent naturalization applicants from establishing the good moral character required by law to become a U.S. citizen.
Applications for Visa Stamps, Entry to the U.S., and Visa Stamp Revocation
Violations of any law relating to controlled substances can be a basis for denying a visa stamp (H-1B, L-1, etc.) application, denying someone entry to the U.S. following a trip outside, or revoking a visa stamp.
Weaver Schlenger has heard reports that international entertainers in the U.S. in temporary visa status who visited marijuana dispensaries and provided their passports at the dispensaries, later were denied re-entry to the U.S. because their visa stamps had been revoked (unbeknownst to them but presumably because the government accessed the dispensary records of passport information). In addition, even when a visa stamp was not revoked, non-U.S. citizens were questioned upon entry whether on a previous visit they visited a state where marijuana use is legal and whether they used marijuana or visited a dispensary.
Because questions about violations of controlled substance laws are posed at various stages of U.S. immigration (visa stamp application, naturalization application, potentially upon applications for entry to the U.S.), we encourage Weaver Schlenger clients who have questions about this information, to please contact the attorney with whom you normally work in our firm.