Court Rules Immigrants can be Deported for Cannabis Crimes

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California ruled on May 10 that immigrants in the state can be deported if they were convicted of a cannabis crime before voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016.

The court denied an appeal from Claudia Prado, a woman who was convicted in 2014 of possession of cannabis with intent to distribute. Prado is currently held in the Orange County jail and faces deportation.

Prado was able to get a state court to drop her felony conviction to a misdemeanor under provisions provided by Proposition 64. Then Prado applied for political asylum because her conviction is no longer considered a crime in California. But the appeals court voted 3-0 that federal immigration law doesn’t recognize California’s decision to reclassify a valid conviction. “Because Prado does not challenge the validity of her conviction, it retains its immigration consequences,” the ruling stated.

Prado emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with her parents in 1972, when she was a baby. She became a legal resident in 1980. It mirrors many other similar cases in recent years. Two years ago Luis Quintana Alvarez faced deportation over a single gram of cannabis. Just a month ago, two Denver, Colorado residents were denied citizenship based solely on their involvement in the cannabis industry. The nation’s longest-serving cannabis prisoner, Antonio “Tony” Bascaro, who spent 40 years behind bars, also faces deportation after he was released from prison.

A policy alert from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office last month warned immigrants who wish to become U.S. citizens. The alert warned any foreign national to stay away from any association with cannabis.

It’s a stern reminder that cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, and applications for asylum will be denied for those who have cannabis convictions. State laws hold little value in federal court when it comes to cannabis.


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