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Marijuana and Immigration

On January 1, 2018, Proposition 64 allowed for the sale and taxation of recreational marijuana. The Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, also know as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This proposition decriminalizes “minor marijuana offenses” for all adults in California. Minor marijuana offenses include: possession of, transport and sharing of 28.5 grams or fewer of marijuana, eight (8) grams or fewer of concentrated marijuana, and cultivation and harvest of six (6) plants or fewer at home. It also reduces penalties for other marijuana-related offenses from felonies to misdemeanors or “wobblers” and creates a system for regulating business activities related to marijuana. While federal law still prohibits these activities, there is change brewing, and the passing of Proposition 64 should be welcome news for impacted residents of California.

These systemic reforms are not likely to ease penalties for immigrants the same way they would for all other residents. Historically, immigrants with even minor marijuana possession offenses were met with severe penalties. In particular, black and Latinx immigrants experience disproportionate enforcement of marijuana arrests and harsh and permanent sentencing that white and nonblack residents do not, despite similar rates of marijuana use across all population demographics.

There will be some notable legal shifts immigrants can anticipate, including changes to sentencing, how arrest records are treated, and differences between state level treatment and federal level treatment of those convictions in an immigration case. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center recently published a report titled “Immigration Impact: The Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” explaining Proposition 64 and how it will affect California’s immigrant population in more detail, from the rates of immigrant convictions, and type of convictions to expect, to the prospects for post-conviction relief.

For more details about Proposition 64 and how it affects people based on citizenship status, please see the following articles below:

1. AB-64 Cannabis: licensure and regulation.

2. Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811)

3. H.R.5520 - VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 (Introduced May 2018)

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Immigration law can be complicated and this article does not cover all the issues regarding the marijuana and immigration. These cases can be extremely complex, and a single misstep could potentially lead to a deportation or other immigration penalties. If you have any questions regarding your immigration case, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Call our law firm to consult with an immigration attorney today at: (949) 285-1836