(San Francisco, CA)—The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. This bill would offer tremendous relief to immigrants because it would end federal marijuana prohibition, address the collateral consequences of federal marijuana criminalization, and take steps to ensure the legal marketplace and employment in the industry is diverse and inclusive.
Thirty-six states have legalized some medical use of marijuana, and 18 states and the District of Columbia also have legalized recreational use. But because marijuana remains a federal controlled substance, and immigration is federal law, all noncitizens still face extremely severe consequences – even for conduct that is lawful in the states. Immigrants can face drastic penalties if:
- They admit that they used marijuana, at home, in accord with state law, for recreational or medicinal purposes -- because they have admitted to a federal drug offense;
- They are lawfully employed in the legitimate, multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry, paying their state and federal income taxes -- because for federal purposes, they are engaged in “drug trafficking” even though their participation is legal in the state where they are working;
- They have any conviction relating to marijuana, including an infraction or a misdemeanor, no matter how old the conviction is and regardless of the fact that their state finds that the conduct is legal now and has “expunged” the conviction.
“The MORE Act would solve this immigration problem because it would remove marijuana as a federal Schedule I controlled substance. Without the MORE Act, possession of marijuana will continue to be a leading basis for deportation and denial of lawful status for immigrants,” said ILRC Senior Staff Attorney Kathy Brady. “Right now, immigration authorities are cynically punishing immigrants who have no idea that using marijuana or working in the industry in accord with state law is a federal offense. Why would they, or any of us – we are surrounded by billboards advertising marijuana.” The Department of Justice does not seek criminal penalties against U.S. citizens who use marijuana in accord with state law, but the Department of Homeland Security does seek immigration penalties against noncitizens for the same conduct.
“The ILRC has worked for years to remedy unfair drug laws and we praise the national coalition of civil rights and community groups, and the House leadership, for getting the MORE Act passed in the House,” Brady said.
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policy makers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC works to protect and defend the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities. Follow us at www.ilrc.org, and on Twitter and Instagram @the_ILRC.