Federal Appeals Court: Immigrants Can Still Be Deported for Pre-2016 Marijuana Offenses in California

In November of 2016, California residents voted in favor of the state’s recreational marijuana bill, Proposition 64, by a margin of 57 to 43. On January 1st, 2018, it became legal — at the state level — for people over the age of 21 in California to possess and use small amounts of marijuana. In addition, businesses were also allowed to apply for licenses to cultivate and sell the substance.

However, as marijuana remains prohibited at the federal level, using it or participating in the industry is not always so simple — especially for immigrants. Previously, we have discussed green card holders being denied U.S. citizenship because of ties to the marijuana industry. Now, a federal court has ruled that immigrants can still be deported for old marijuana offenses in California, even though the substance is now permitted under state law.

Appeals Court Declines to Offer Protection for Immigrants With Old Marijuana Offenses

According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the claim of a California woman who is facing deportation because of a 2014 conviction for a marijuana possession offense. This case is especially notable because, as of 2018, the offense that this woman was convicted of is no longer a felony California.

The appellant in this case, Claudia Prado of Orange County, CA, was convicted of a felony. However, after the changes to California’s marijuana laws, she was able to get a state court to reclassify her conviction as a misdemeanor. After doing so, she sought immigration relief on the grounds that she no longer had a felony on her record — as that felony offense blocked off certain options. Unfortunately, her appeal was denied by the court. In a unanimous three to zero decision, the judicial panel ruled that this reclassification cannot be recognized for the purposes of federal immigration law.

Undocumented Immigrants Face Continued Injustice

On the surface level alone, the injustice in this case is clear: An immigrant is being deported for a nonviolent offense that is no longer even a crime. While businesses are raking in profits in the recreational marijuana industry, not everyone is protected. Though, this case is even more heartbreaking than that.

Ms. Prado was brought to California by her parents from Mexico in 1972. When she entered the country, she was only 6 months old. She has now been living in the United States for nearly five decades, essentially her entire life. Yet, she has virtually no immigration protection under current U.S. law. A dated conviction for a non-violent drug offense — an offense that is no longer recognized as a crime by California state law — is set to result in her deportation.

Contact Our Los Angeles, CA Deportation Defense Attorney Today

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we fight to protect the rights of immigrants throughout Southern California. We know how overwhelming it can be to face the prospect of removal from the country. If you or your family member needs assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our deportation defense lawyers for a confidential consultation.