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Green cards and pot possession: What might the nexus be here?

Although many people know, of course, that marijuana manufacturing and distribution are activities that can result in significant criminal penalties, they may not be as aware that simply possessing marijuana -- even a token amount for personal use -- can also yield harsh results.

And as true as that can be for many Arkansas residents that are American citizens, it is even more the case for noncitizens.

As a recent media overview of immigration laws applied to drug crimes notes, the criminal consequences of even a minor drug offense can be flatly severe for immigrants, including legal residents with green cards.

In fact, they can be egregious. As the above-cited article points out, one green card holder with a college degree and job was arrested on two misdemeanor pot possessions counts. Although she received no jail time following her conviction, authorities subsequently placed her in immigration detention for close to two years, seeking to deport her.

She may be spared that fate, given a recent United States Supreme Court ruling in which the country's highest tribunal ruled against the government in another low-level drug matter in which a convicted offender was in fact deported to another country. The court ruling stated that "the Government's reading stretched the construction of [the law] to the breaking point."

Reportedly, more than 6,000 noncitizens were deported for personal marijuana possession in 2013 alone. Over the past six years, it is estimated that about 250,000 people have been tossed out of the country owing to drug charges.

Criminal law reform is manifestly evident these days in the realm of sentencing adjustments being sought and made by state and federal legislators. The writer of the aforementioned article urges that reforms also encompass changes "that prevent the government from deporting individuals for drug offenses ... that the criminal justice system has judged much less harshly."

We will be sure to track all material reform initiatives that emerge and gain traction, ensuring that our readers are well apprised of key developments in this important criminal law sphere.

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