|Don't Mess with the Feds|
The whole country is at a pivotal point when it comes to marijuana, and it's "legalization." More than 25 states now have medical marijuana and the trend is moving upwards. In our home state of New York marijuana is decriminalized, meaning small amounts are a violation (non-criminal offense). Many states even have recreational pot, so what's the problem?
Marijuana is Still a Federally Banned Substance
The states can do what they may to decriminalize weed, allow it for medical use, and even put it in stores for fun. The problem is with the federal government and federal law. The DEA just this year re-classified pot as a schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and LSD. If you get even a violation level offense for marijuana you still have to report it on all federal applications. FAFSA applications have a section for controlled substances and even though pot isn't a "controlled substance" in New York, it still is federally. That means ineligibility for all federal aid for one year from a mere joint.is that is
Immigration Harm to NON-Citizens with Marijuana Offenses
Deportation is always a big issue for non-citizens with any controlled substance charge. The problem is that for citizens what may be only a violation or a loss of federal loans or grants can mean deportation for a non-citizen. People here for college on a student visa are at risk if they are buying, possessing, or selling marijuana. Remember New York considers a drug sale any exchange, even a favor. Money never needs to change hands to legally state you are selling pot.
Between 2007 and 2012 The Human Rights Watch has reported that over 34,000 people with mere marijuana possession charges were deported. Getting a marijuana conviction by just accepting a guilty plea to the charge in court happens far too frequently. The consequences of that guilty plea could be far reaching. These are called collateral consequences.
To get a sense of how powerful the federal government is. One man here on a student visa with a single marijuana possession charge was facing deportation. The governor of his home state pardoned him, and this had no effect on his deportation proceeding. When it comes to controlled substance crimes the federal government overrules any state action. This has been upheld by the courts.
Many Non-citizens Don't Have Lawyers for Marijuana Charges
Unless the maijuana charge reaches the level of a misdemeanor they are NOT eligible for a public defender. Traveling in and out of the country becomes even more problematic for non-citizens with any controlled substance conviction. You may be able to leave and then on your way back in be held as inadmissible. Next blog we will discuss DWAI drugs, and immigration.