As more and more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it is important to understand how these new laws affect intending immigrants. Noncitizens living in states where marijuana is legal may reasonably think that using marijuana in accordance with state law will not hurt their immigration status or prospects for obtaining lawful status. However, this is incorrect. With regard to immigration, federal law controls, not state law. It remains a federal offense to possess marijuana.
Particularly, noncitizens who admit to an immigration official that he or she possessed marijuana can be found inadmissible, denied entry into the United States, or have an application for lawful status or naturalization denied. Depending on the circumstances, it can make a lawful permanent resident deportable. Some immigration officers are aggressively asking noncitizens if they have ever possessed marijuana, so it is important to be mindful of this if you are seeking an immigration benefit. Therefore, even if you live in a state where it is legal, you should consider the immigration consequences of marijuana use until you are a U.S. citizen.