Effective Wednesday, Canada will recognize the legal adult use of marijuana and will allow for limited personal possession and purchase of marijuana without criminal penalties. In the United States, 13 states have also decriminalized some forms of marijuana possession, including some that border Canada like Maine and Washington.

However, marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law. The federal Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

Under immigration law, violation of a controlled substance law—either domestic or foreign—may result in a finding of inadmissibility, which would impact a foreign national’s ability to obtain a visa, apply for a green card or convert from one immigration status to another, and subject him or her to deportation. In the worst-case scenario, someone who has been convicted of a drug offense or who admits to a violation of a drug law may be deemed permanently inadmissible. Moreover, evidence of cannabis use, even where legal, can lead to a finding of ineligibility on medical grounds as drug abuse. While medical grounds are not permanent, they can lead to ineligibility findings until the person is determined to be in full remission.

Therefore, it is important to be aware that bringing marijuana purchased legally from Canada into the U.S. can have potentially serious immigration consequences, even if it is being brought into a state where possession is decriminalized.

BAL Analysis: Foreign nationals traveling from Canada to the U.S. should be aware that marijuana remains an illegal drug under U.S. federal law and that serious immigration consequences can result from violating or admitting to having violated a controlled substance law or having used a controlled substance. Travelers and employers may contact their BAL professional for additional advice in individual cases.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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