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If you’re an immigrant, read this before you buy marijuana in Colorado

Maybe you live in the state, maybe you’re a visitor. Either way, marijuana is legal in Colorado for adults to purchase — and neither residents nor tourists need a prescription.

If you’re an immigrant, however, you may want to steer clear of any dispensary for now — especially if you hope to eventually obtain your green card or citizenship.

Why is legal marijuana an immigration issue?

Essentially, it comes down to this: Under federal law, marijuana is still considered a dangerous, illegal substance with no medicinal value. The fact that the vast majority of the states have approved its use for medicinal reasons and some states (like Colorado) have even legalized it for recreational use makes no difference at the federal level.

For most people in this country, this patchworked and chaotic approach to the legal status of cannabis just means that they need to remember where they are and obey state and local laws when it comes to buying and possessing marijuana.

When you’re an immigrant, the rules are different. While there’s a bill in the works that would change this rule, right now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adheres to the policy that any cannabis use makes an immigrant “morally unfit” for citizenship — even when the marijuana was purchased legally.

In practice, this means that you need to avoid any suggestion that you are “pro-cannabis.” Don’t go near a dispensary, don’t post about cannabis use online and certainly never purchase the drug illegally.

If your moral character is in question, get help

If you have concerns about passing the “moral fitness” test for immigration, don’t wait to seek experienced guidance. An attorney can help you understand what you can do to minimize the problems you may face and how to proceed with your case.