On October 25, 2022, American professional basketball player Brittney Griner lost her bid with a Russian appeals court to overturn her nine-year prison sentence for attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into Russia.
According to reports, Griner, a women’s National Basketball Association star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at a Russian airport in February 2022 while attempting to enter the country to play professional basketball using vaporizer cartridges containing less than one gram of cannabis oil. , a product derived from marijuana. Griner reportedly has a prescription for medical marijuana in Arizona, but marijuana, including medical marijuana, is still illegal in Russia.
The US State Department has classified Graner as “unjustly detained,” a designation that means the US will act more aggressively to secure her release.
Griner’s situation may be special given the political situation between the countries involved. At the same time, it may serve as a reminder to employers of the risks to employees who travel to work with marijuana given the drug’s changing legal status from country to country and even state to state within the United States.
The diverse legal status of marijuana
Currently, recreational marijuana, or cannabis, is legal in 21 US states plus the District of Columbia, while medical marijuana is legal in many other states. This drug is illegal to import, manufacture, distribute, and possess under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance—a classification of drugs that are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use.
Around the world, there are similar differences in the case of marijuana. While most countries continue to ban marijuana, some have limited enforcement, and several countries, such as Canada, have legalized recreational use on a national level. Many others, mostly in Europe and South America, have legalized medical marijuana. On the other hand, some countries have strict drug laws and impose harsh penalties for marijuana possession.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also treats marijuana as a banned substance for athletes competing in international sports since marijuana and cannabis are on the prohibited list under the World Anti-Doping Code, which seeks to coordinate international anti-doping efforts around the world. Globalism. However, in 2019, WADA exempted cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical derived from marijuana that is different from the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Consequences of Immigration for Non-US Citizens
While recreational or medical use of marijuana is legal in many states, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law. Therefore, marijuana-related activity, such as legal employment in the cannabis industry, possession, sale, purchase, or formal acceptance of marijuana use, can result in immigration consequences for non-citizens, even if the activity is performed in a state where marijuana is legal. In addition, simply accepting marijuana-related behavior can also result in failure to demonstrate the good moral character required to obtain US citizenship through naturalization. Non-US citizens include lawful permanent residents (also referred to as “green card holders”), visitors, students, work visa holders, and dependents of work visa holders.
Flying in the United States
When traveling in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) generally allows the transportation of personal medical marijuana in certain situations. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) warns that marijuana and some cannabis-infused products, including some CBD oil, remain illegal under federal law. The 2018 Federal Farm Act included an exception for “products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.”
The TSA states that it is not looking specifically for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but that if any illegal substances are found during the inspection, the agency will “refer the matter to a law enforcement official.” Despite the farm bill, there have been reports of travelers in recent years being arrested and detained in some US states where marijuana is illegal after marijuana or marijuana products were discovered in their luggage.
International travel can pose additional risks. According to US law, it is illegal to import any amount of marijuana or drug paraphernalia into the United States. In April 2021, US Customs and Border Protection issued a reminder to the public that those caught bringing marijuana into the United States face several consequences, including federal civil penalties of up to $1,000.
It is also illegal to transport marijuana across many international borders, even if marijuana is legal in the destination country. For example, the Government of Canada, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2018, He warns travelers that it is illegal To transport marijuana or cannabis products, including foodstuffs, cannabis extracts, and topical ointments, across the border into Canada, regardless of how much travelers are carrying or whether they are authorized to use medical marijuana in any form.
Moreover, not only have many countries not followed the trend of legalization, they are imposing severe penalties for violations. Singapore, for example, is a popular location for many US multinational corporations, Possession or consumption of cannabis is punishable With up to ten years in prison or $20,000 or both. And those who illegally trade, import or export cannabis may face the death penalty.
The US Department of State warns travelers that they are subject to the local laws and regulations of the country they are visiting and that these laws and potential penalties may differ from those in the United States. Travelers who are arrested or detained abroad may have to contact the United States Embassy in that country, which, depending on the country, may be able to provide various services, such as providing a list of local attorneys who can represent the traveler.
Despite the increasing legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, the drug remains illegal under US federal law, in many states, and in most countries around the world. Employers who have employees who travel regularly for work, especially multinational employers who have employees who must travel internationally frequently, may want to consider employment policies to prohibit these medications while traveling. They may also want to consider warnings to employees about the risks of traveling with marijuana products even if the employees are licensed medical marijuana users.
Furthermore, employers may want to assess potential broader risks before requiring or requiring employees to travel to certain countries that are currently in conflict or that have strained relations with the United States.