Would I be in trouble if I possessed marijuana? I am not a US citizen. I was wondering because some states have legalized it.

Yes, as a non-citizen you could be deported for breaking drug laws related to marijuana or cannabis. By non-citizen, I am referring to anyone who is not a US national. Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) are not US nationals and therefore are at risk if the person breaks a drug law.

In the US, there are many governments and each has its own set of laws. When the US was created by the US constitution, the states gave the federal government certain powers. For example, the power to create money or a national post office was reserved for the federal government. Immigration law and the power to regulate foreign nationals was also reserved for the federal government. So, federal law is the main set of laws to pay attention to as a foreign national.

As of the date of this posting, possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law. If the federal government learns a non-citizen has been cited or convicted for possessing marijuana, then the non-citizen could be prevented from entering the United States or if already in the country, the non-citizen could be deported.

Sometimes federal law allows one single possession of 30 grams or less to essentially be ignored or forgiven, but I would not depend on that provision of the law. Why? This provision of the law may not allow some non-citizens to leave the US and return. And even if the small amount is forgiven, the non-citizen usually has to pay a lawyer and spend time addressing the situation. Keep in mind that if a non-citizen is caught with marijuana more than once—however small the amount—then this 30 grams or less law will not save the non-citizen.

Florida has not legalized possession of marijuana for recreational purposes under state law while California legalized it at the beginning of this year. However, you cannot legally possess marijuana everywhere in California because the federal government owns much of the land inside the state’s borders. If you visit a federal building, a national park, airport, or other location that the federal government owns or where it has jurisdiction, then you would be under federal law and not state law.

This answer only concerns possession of marijuana. Selling or trafficking marijuana is usually considered a more serious offense under federal immigration laws and many state laws. For non-citizens, my advice is to stay away from marijuana while it is illegal under any law.

If you have any questions regarding immigration, please feel free to call me, immigration attorney Shawn Mesa at (813) 679-5780.

Disclaimer: This information is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on this information is taken at your own risk.

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