STOCKTON (CBS13) — Although recreational marijuana is now legal in California, it’s still a federal offense that could cause serious problems for many undocumented individuals.
From working in a pot-shop to something simple as wearing a t-shirt with a marijuana plant on it could put people at-risk for deportation.
The warning for undocumented individuals comes just Attorney General Jeff Sessions releases a memo telling U.S. attorneys they should be more active in enforcing federal drug laws in states like California where recreational pot is now legal.
Now that recreational marijuana is legal in California, there is a new warning for undocumented individuals who may be thinking about lighting up.
“If you are not a United States citizen, don’t smoke,” said Patrick Kolasinski, immigration criminal defense attorney.
Possession of marijuana remains a federal offense. Immigration attorneys say non-U.S. citizens who admit to smoking pot to any immigration official could find themselves detained and even deported.
“If they see a picture of you holding a joint or in a dispensary, or in any other way that indicates that you may do it, or you’re wearing your pot t-shirt, your 420 t-shirt, or whatever, they might ask you ‘Hey, Prop. 64 awesome, huh?’ and if you say ‘yeah, I lit up,’ guess what? You’re not coming back,” he said.
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a policy by the Obama administration that paved the way for legalized marijuana to develop in states across the country. Criminal defense attorneys say it’s a major conflict between state and federal law.
“U.S. Attorneys who are charged with enforcing federal criminal law will now be encouraged to bring federal drug charges against people who are for example are operating a dispensary and is very easy for the federal agents to prove you are running a dispensary because you got a license from the state,” he said.
Groups including Justice for Migrant Workers are helping educate the community, so families aren’t torn apart.
“The separation of the family is too deep, it’s very painful,” said Luis Magana, coordinator, Justice for Migrant Workers.
Immigration rights advocates say non-U.S. citizens should leave the pot at home, don’t carry a medical marijuana card and hire a lawyer if you’re planning on opening a dispensary.
“The information is very important and the prevention. That’s how, the way that we work, educating the people, about the risks and impactions,” said Magana.
An informational session about the new law including the dangers of driving while high is scheduled for Monday at the offices of Justice for Migrant Workers in Stockton.