As the Minnesota Legislature considers legalizing cannabis, following 21 states and the District of Columbia, I urge lawmakers to consider safeguards for immigrants who are not yet U.S. citizens (not just undocumented Minnesotans).
What many people do not know is that while states are decriminalizing cannabis — in part to redress racist failures of the War on Drugs — cannabis will continue to be a Schedule 1 drug under federal law. The possession, giving of, selling, cultivating, importing or exporting of marijuana continue to be federal offenses. Such designation impacts the rights of immigrants who are not U.S. citizens.
Immigrants who are not yet U.S. citizens and live in states that decriminalize cannabis may assume that they can partake just like all other adults. The assumption, which I have heard many times, is that since cannabis is legal, why can’t I use it recreationally, buy it, produce it, etc.? But for non-U.S. citizens, the consequences could be devastating.
For example: If you are undocumented in Minnesota and your U.S. spouse sponsors you for permanent residency (aka a green card), you generally have to return to your home country to get approved. Once outside the U.S., you take a required medical exam. If you tell the physician that because you were stressed out with the whole green card process, you smoked a little bit, the consular officer interviewing you and reviewing your documentation could deny your green card. And getting back in the U.S….
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