Recently, multiple states have not only legalized the use of marijuana (aka cannabis, weed, pot, etc.) for medical use, but they have decriminalized possession of marijuana for recreational use. Following that trend in states that have not yet taken this action (Florida being one of them) local governments have made efforts to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of this still federally controlled substance. The city of Orlando is currently contemplating just that action:
Volusia County (Daytona Beach) also recently voted to pass such a measure:
Regardless of your opinion on the issue, there are many things to remember about these changes in the law if you are someone who likes to smoke a little weed now. Do not start celebrating and preparing to shove your dime bag in the face of an Orlando Police Officer, or tell a Volusia County Sheriff’s officer about your stash of weed in the glove box. You absolutely need to read on if you are not a U.S. citizen and happen to find yourself in possession of marijuana on occasion.
What is key to remember about possessing marijuana is it is still a federally controlled substance. So if you have enough of it, or are doing something more than just possessing a small amount, you can be prosecuted federally regardless of your state or local laws. In addition, if you live in a state, like Florida, where it is still illegal to possess cannabis, and you are caught outside of a the city limits or county line of a jurisdiction that has decriminalized simple possession, you can still be prosecuted under state law.
Even if Orlando passes a law to make simple possession nothing more than a civil, non-criminal citation, the Orlando Police Department does not have to give you a civil citation, they can still arrest you under the state law. This is especially the case if you have prior drug arrests, live outside of the city or state, do something to upset them, have committed another crime at the same time as possessing marijuana or just because the officer doesn’t like you.
Also, if your city or county decriminalizes some marijuana crimes, that doesn’t meant that your prior convictions for possessing cannabis suddenly go away. If you want to see if you can seal or expunge a prior case, check out our web page for more information: https://www.slgattorneysflorida.com/am-i-eligible-to-seal-or-expunge-my-case.html
Now that you know that you still have to watch your Ps and Qs if you are carrying, lets talk about what happens to immigrants who are not citizens and who are caught with marijuana. If you came into the county without a visa or without being admitted by an immigration officer (illegally), and you are convicted of possessing any federally controlled substance, you can be detained, denied many forms of immigration benefits and deported.
Yes, that’s right, many immigrants who did not enter with visas and don’t have green cards (not lawful permanent residents) can be detained and deported for just a small amount of marijuana for personal use. If you happen to have a visa (visitor, student, employment, etc) or a green card, then you cannot be detained and deported for just one conviction for a small amount of cannabis. However, a first conviction for any other federally controlled substance (drug) or as second conviction for a small amount of cannabis will subject you to deportation.
So what do you do if you get busted for marijuana possession and you are not sure if you were arrested or just received a civil citation? Call an experienced immigration attorney you can trust. Getting an immigration attorney involved as soon as you get that ticket or get arrested is key to protecting your immigration rights and status. Check out our dedicated crimmigration consultation page for more information about what we can do to help: http://www.floridacrimmigration.com
Sometimes its hard to tell if you received a civil citation/ticket (one that means you did not commit a crime, one that means you cannot be put in jail or receive probation for the offense) or just a paper notice to appear/ticket in criminal court to face criminal charges that can result with you going to jail and getting deported.
If you are not a U.S. citizen and you get stopped in a jurisdiction that de-criminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, be nice to the officer, ask for a civil citation and hope that the officer is in a good mood. If the officer is not in a good mood and arrests you for that small amount of cannabis, call an attorney right away, preferably one who knows criminal and immigration law and can help you protect your rights, like me: https://www.slgattorneysflorida.com/john-gihon.html
If you need an immigration attorney anywhere in the United States, but certainly if you live in Orlando or Jacksonville, please call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon.
Visit our website for more information about SLG: http://www.slgattorneys.com