Q: My friend has really bad back pain. He was prescribed Vicodin but he doesn’t want to take that. He would rather use medical marijuana, but he is scared to because he isn’t a U.S. citizen. He’s a green card holder and believes will get in trouble because immigration is federal. Should he not get one?
A: Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, regardless of the laws of any particular state. Marijuana-related activity can trigger immigration consequences in a number of ways. Immigration consequences are generally divided into grounds for removal (deportation) and grounds for inadmissibility (disqualification from entering the country or improving immigration status within the country).
Commission of a drug offense automatically makes a person both inadmissible and removable. However, there is a small exception for a single instance of simple possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. A person can also be made inadmissible and removable for drug abuse or drug addiction. So, a non-citizen takes a risk by using marijuana if an immigration judge finds out that they’ve possessed marijuana more than once, possessed more than 30 grams of marijuana, possessed for sale, sold, or transported any marijuana, or are addicted to or abusing marijuana.
One’s status as a medical marijuana patent would not ordinarily be known to any immigration agency and should not be voluntarily disclosed to them by any patient. However, it’s not inconceivable that an immigration court could be presented with evidence that a non-citizen is a medical marijuana patient and persuaded by an argument that he or she is a marijuana addict or abuser. This is an unlikely scenario, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of all possibilities and make wise and informed choices.
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