After a recent announcement by the Trump administration, many people involved in the legal marijuana are concerned about the ramifications of a move to lift an enforcement of federal marijuana laws in the states across the United States where marijuana is legal. Despite marijuana being legalized at the state level, there are still federal laws in place which prevent people from possessing, selling, or using marijuana, unlike Canadian medical marijuana laws.
Despite the fact that the state of California legalized cannabis on New Year’s Day, many visitors, non-US citizens, and illegal immigrants could still face severe penalties. Marijuana is currently still illegal at a federal level, and it is the federal law which controls immigration across the United States.
“It’s really unfortunate,” says Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods. “For immigrants, anyone who is convicted of possession of over 30 grams of marijuana, whether here legally or not, will be deportable.” While residents or American citizens can legally buy or possess marijuana, others would be committing a federal crime and could face hefty penalties if caught. It’s important that if you are visiting the United States, you understand the laws affecting non-residents of the United States.
As if illegal immigrants and non-citizens didn’t have enough to be concerned about, Attorney General Jeff Sessions nailed another nail in their coffin. Sessions have instructed all federal prosecutors to be more aggressive with their pursuit of people who buy and sell marijuana in states across the United States where it has been legalized.
Currently, at the time of writing this article, California is home to over ten million immigrants. “I can’t imagine – and I could be wrong – that there will be a huge enforcement uptick in California,” Woods said. Woods cited the current lack of federal resources to go after marijuana cases and says federal prosecutors in California tend to be more liberal than in other parts of the country despite being urged to enforce stricter control of marijuana laws. Despite this, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding marijuana and the role the federal government will play in enforcement and prosecution. In such a complicated and uncertain atmosphere, there is no surprise that many people are still cautious about marijuana.
California officially legalized the sale of marijuana on January 1st, 2018. However, it wasn’t until January 2nd that many marijuana businesses opened their doors to the public. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, California’s two largest cities, the sale of legalized marijuana got off to a very slow start. This slow start was due to the local regulations which weren’t approved in time to allow marijuana businesses enough time to obtain the issued city licenses.
Non-citizens “are worried, and they have to be worried,” says Woods. “Just based on the current administration’s stance on immigration in general.“