Marijuana may be a multi-billion dollar industry in Colorado, but cannabis is still illegal federally — so any job in the industry can be considered trafficking in a controlled substance. Normally, this hasn’t been a tricky distinction for the industry’s state-licensed employees, except by one standard. Their immigration status.
Simply having a job in a dispensary or grow house can get a legal resident, or other immigrant, deported and banned from the U.S., sometimes for life.
Reposted from Cannabist. By Ann Marie Awad, Colorado Public Radio
Even tourists who stop into a dispensary for a joint during a visit to the Mile High City risk running afoul of customs agents who are increasingly searching phones and social media.
Dean Heizer, the executive director of the LivWell chain of dispensaries, has the PSA playing in the lobby of every one of his stores. That’s because he’s dealt with this firsthand.
“In anticipation of potential immigration actions by the government, we have preemptively reached out to folks and advised them of the situation, and invariably, when they’ve been advised, they’ve chosen to quit,” he said.
He’s also tweaked LivWell’s hiring process to include an upfront disclosure that working for the industry could get you deported. He has to take that approach, because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prevents employers from asking about an applicant’s immigration status.
“We’re trying to address it through public education, because until either the immigration laws get changed, Title VII gets changed or the controlled substances act gets changed, there’s no way out of this,” Heizer said.
The threat of deportation in these situations is not new to the Trump administration. In fact, deportations for drug possession increased 43 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. Violeta Chapin, an immigration attorney and law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, said those numbers will likely grow. Combine President Trump’s surge in immigration enforcement with a Justice Department hostile to marijuana, and Chapin said the outlook isn’t great.
“This is something that we as a country really need to take a hard look at, which is how are we going to deal with the enforcement that happens around marijuana, still, at the federal level,” she said.
Since that question is not likely to be resolved any time soon, Chapin pointed to one easy way for immigrants to avoid this problem.
“Certainly when people come to me and ask me, and I’m always grateful that they ask me before they make any decision, I tell them don’t get near it. Don’t do it. I’m sorry, you’re just not like everybody else,” she said.
“Like, I could walk into a dispensary tomorrow and buy a joint and go to my house and smoke it. You, unfortunately, that’s a huge risk for you.”
So long as Congress remains deadlocked on immigration, “just say no” seems to be the only option for non-citizens right now. And, while some lawmakers have introduced bills to legalize or otherwise decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, it’s unclear how much of a chance they have of passing.
Information from: Colorado Public Radio
Celebrate 4/20 in Colorado Springs: 420Fest & Tattoo Art Expo and Indulge in the Colorado Cannabis Lifestyle!
Colorado Rocky Mountain HIGH Tours will be doing a Bud Run from the venue, Altered Reality Event Center to Pueblo Recreational Dispensary. Enjoy the 35 minute ride in luxury. Each Pueblo dispensary provides select samples. The onboard Cannabis Concierge will answer all your questions about strains and infused products.