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Immigrants Are Left Out of Biden’s Marijuana Pardons

Immigrants Are Left Out of Biden’s Marijuana Pardons

When President Joe Biden pardoned anyone convicted of federal possession of marijuana, he specifically excluded anyone without legal status.

The President’s statement about the pardons highlighted his belief that no one should be in jail for using or possessing marijuana, also called cannabis.

That sentiment initially appeared to grant some relief for immigrants behind bars on federal marijuana possession charges. However, the proclamation provided more details, saying the pardon did not “apply to individuals who were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense.”

Deportation for Marijuana Offenses

Despite the pardons and the federal government’s pending review of marijuana’s classification, immigrants can be deported for marijuana possession. Deportation for simple marijuana possession is possible for undocumented and legal immigrants alike. Even green card holders can be deported if they are in possession of more than 30 grams.

Between 2003 and 2020, more than 48,000 people whose most serious crime was marijuana possession were deported, according to data from Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. That equates to about 1% of all deportation during that timeframe.

Even if the President included undocumented immigrants in the pardon, immigration law would limit its applicability to only those convicted of possessing less than 30 grams.

Former Documented Immigrants Can Reapply to Enter the U.S.

If a legal immigrant was deported for one federal conviction of possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana, they can potentially apply for reentry. After receiving their pardon, the immigrant can request their case be reopened. The process is possible but complicated and requires the help of a strong immigration attorney.

Marijuana Reclassification Might Help Immigrants

Cannabis is currently listed as a Schedule I narcotic, the category for the most dangerous drugs. While 19 states have fully legalized marijuana and 37 have legalized its medical use, the federal government has not changed its classification. Marijuana is equivalent to heroin and LSD and more dangerous than cocaine, opioids, and fentanyl, in the eyes of federal law.

If marijuana were removed from the schedules of controlled substances, affected immigrants could get a new path to getting a green card or naturalization/citizenship.

Until that happens, even admitting to a one-time use of marijuana during the green-card process could result in deportation. This is true even if the incident occurred in a state where marijuana possession has been legalized. Working in the cannabis industry can also lead to deportation proceedings.

Should the recommendation be to only lower the classification of marijuana to a different schedule, the same deportation consequences will apply.

Immigrants Should Avoid Cannabis

Unless and until the day comes that marijuana is decriminalized coast to coast at the state and federal levels, non-citizen immigrants of any status or no status should avoid cannabis completely. Do not possess, use, or share marijuana, even if it is legal in your state. Do not work or invest in the cannabis industry at any level.

Immigrants Facing Drug Crimes Need Strong Legal Representation

At Musa-Obregon Law PC, our intersection of knowledge in immigration and criminal defense enables us to provide aggressive deportation defense and strategic counsel for immigrants facing criminal charges. We have more than 100 years of combined experience helping those wanting a new life in the United States.

Need help with immigration issues? Contact us online or call (888) 502-8461 to get answers.


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