In Minnesota, individuals aged 21 years and older are permitted to legally possess and use marijuana. However, despite being legal at the state level, marijuana remains prohibited under federal law. This legal nuance is particularly pertinent for immigrants who haven’t obtain U.S. citizenship, according to Julia Decker, the policy director at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
Decker emphasizes the federal control over cannabis, noting that engaging in any related activities or possessing marijuana could result in immigration consequences, potentially leading to deportation. This distinction holds regardless of one’s legal status, even if an individual possesses a green card or other lawful immigration documentation.
The complexity arises because, under Minnesota state law, an individual might possess a small quantity of cannabis for personal use without facing criminal charges. However, immigration applications often inquire about any uncharged or unconvicted criminal acts, complicating matters for applicants swearing under penalty of perjury or oath. Even in the absence of a criminal case, Decker warns of potential consequences.
Linus Chan, a clinical professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School, points out the challenge attorneys face in navigating a system where the distinction between state and federal law isn’t always clear. He notes that people often overlook the difference between state and federal law when determining whether an act constitutes a crime. This lack of clarity extends to areas such as conviction expungements, where a state expungement may not carry weight at the federal level.
The federal immigration law, as Chan points out, provides no exceptions for medically prescribed cannabis or employment at a dispensary. Although a marijuana conviction doesn’t automatically hinder naturalization or trigger deportation, the risks are heightened for individuals lacking citizenship, according to both Chan and Decker.
Decker underscores the necessity of recognizing the arbitrary nature of legal distinctions, especially concerning marijuana laws. She suggests that, particularly in the context of citizens versus noncitizens, the disparities in legal standards can seem fundamentally unfair across various issues.
As cannabis legalization in Minnesota is still in its early stages, Decker recommends individuals navigating the immigration system seek advice from immigration lawyers. Meanwhile, legal experts closely monitor how these changes may impact the future citizenship prospects of Minnesota residents.
The shifting legal landscape prompts a proactive approach for immigrants, ensuring they comprehend the nuances and potential ramifications within the complex intersection of state, federal and immigration law.
These legal contradictions between federal and state law also create complexities for marijuana companies, such as Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF), as they conduct their legitimate operations.
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