Minnesota became the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years old and older on August 1, 2023. As in other states, there is a long list of laws and regulations regarding the legal use in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The law also mandates the expungement of all prior misdemeanor marijuana offenses (an estimated 66,000 are eligible for automatic expungement). In addition, it creates a Cannabis Expungement Board to review felony offenses for possible expungement on a case-by-case basis.
Federal law still prohibits recreational use
The state’s legalization does not end marijuana-related legal trouble for non-citizens, regardless of whether they have a legal visa or not. It is essential to remember that federal law still prohibits recreational marijuana use, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Department of Justice oversees all immigration and visa matters. The rules are confusing, but it basically means that those charged could be subject to removal proceedings and deportation.
Local law enforcement may notify ICE
County or local law enforcement in Minnesota’s cities and towns who arrest non-citizens may also notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that they have a non-citizen in their jail. While cities or towns may welcome migrants or refugees, the county sheriff (who is not under their jurisdiction) could still notify ICE. Hennepin County and Nobles County are the only sanctuary counties in Minnesota that will not honor ICE detainer absent judicial authority. Notification may occur if the non-citizen spends a single day in jail.
Convictions are irrelevant
Court records are an essential part of our legal system. Regardless of conviction, the federal government can cite unsealed records as grounds for deportation or denying citizenship or asylum. In other words, non-citizens face risks if they even acknowledge use or possession on the record.
Nothing has changed for non-citizens
It is essential to avoid marijuana-related charges (or criminal charges of any kind) regardless of whether the non-citizen has a visa or green card. Still, law enforcement does not always arrest and charge the right suspect, nor do they always use the correct legal grounds for an arrest. Individuals or families with questions regarding marijuana charges or other migrant, asylum or visa issues can discuss them with an experienced immigration law attorney.