Should Marijuana Distribution Crimes be Considered an Aggravated Felony for Immigration Law Purposes?

In Moncrieffe v. Holder, No. 11-702, the United States Supreme Court held that if a non-citizen has a conviction for a marijuana distribution crime is not automatically an "aggravated felony" for immigration law purposes. Instead, a marijuana distribution crime would only be considered a aggravated felony if it involved either renumeration or more than a small amount of cannabis. 

The SCOTUS decision was decided with a 7-2 split authored by Sotomayor with only Thomas and Alito dissenting.  

In the past, individuals with a conviction for a marijuana distribution crime would have faced deportation (unless in the rare instance that the non-citizen qualified for political asylum). 

The decision has big implications for non-citizens charged with marijuana crimes such as possession with intent to distribute. For non-citizens charged with a crime it is important that your criminal defense attorney work with an immigration attorney to help you make decisions about whether to go to trial or accept a plea deal. Even when the client decides not to go to trial, the plea deal must be structured in a way to minimize the immigration consequences. 

Read the decision in its entirety here - 

“The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act” - Legalizing Medical Marijuana in Florida

Although it is currently stalled in committee, Florida State Senate Bill 1250 was introduced by Florida State Senator Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth. The bill is called the “The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act.” It would allow individuals with medical conditions to possess marijuana if recommended by a doctor. The individual, or their designated caregiver would be allowed to possess up to four ounces of marijuana or grow up to eight plants.

Obviously not impressed, officers in Manatee County raided Cathy Jordan's home hours after the bill was introduced. Read an article by Norm Kent, the new Chair of NORML's Board of Directors explaining how attorneys on NORML's legal committee stepped up to the plate to come to her defense particularly - Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida. Other attorneys involved include Norm Kent, Russell Cormican, and Matt Kumin.
Florida State Attorney Drops Charges Against Bob and Cathy Jordan, by Norm Kent, Chair, NORML Board of Directors
On April 2nd, 2013, Brian A. Iten, the Division Chief with the State Attorney's Office for Manatee County wrote an interdepartmental memorandum. The memo is addressed to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The memo addresses whether criminal charges should be filed against Robert P. Jordan for the charge of manufacture (cultivation) of marijuana. The memo provides that the State Attorney's Office has decided not to file any criminal charges for the following reasons:
Sixty-four year-old Robert Jordan was referred for prosecution after law enforcement learned that Mr. Jordan was cultivating a small quantity of marijuana at his home. Robert Jordan alleged, and the investigation confirmed, that he was growing the cannabis solely for use of his wife, Cathy Jordan, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in 1985. 
A review of Mrs. Jordan's medical records supplied through counsel, and telephone contract with Dr. Denis Petro, a neurologist who last examined Mrs. Jordan in 2011, confirmed the following:
  • ALS is an incurable, progressive, neurodegenerative disease.
  • The standard drugs used to treat the symptoms of ALS are very dangerous, with serious side effects, including death. 
  • For Mrs. Jordan, cannabis provides relief without the side effects associated with her medical options.
In Florida, the doctrine of medical necessity provides an absolute defense to a cultivation of cannabis prosecution when the following are established:
  • That the defendant did not intentionally bring about the circumstances which precipitated the unlawful act;  
  • That the defendant could not accomplish the same objective using a less offensive alternative available to the defendant; and  
  • That the evil sought to be avoided was more heinous than the lawful act perpetrated to avoid it. See Jenks v. State, 582 So. 2d 676, 677 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991). 
Citing the above facts and law, the State lacks a good faith belief it can over a medical necessity defense in this matter.

Watch this video to learn more about Cathy Jordan -