An agronomist is someone who practices and/or studies the science and technology of using plants for food, fuel, fiber and land reclamation. Agronomy covers work in areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology and soil science. Someone working in the cannabis industry could likely benefit having this on their resume. However, agronomist Shimon Abta was forced back to Israel after being accused of drug trafficking while observing Nevada’s legal medical marijuana industry.
Shimon is caught between US federal law where cannabis is classified as an illegal Schedule 1 drug, and Nevada state law, where it is medically and recreationally legal. The problem for Shimon started when he was required to submit a government-issued ID from Nevada to assist with getting his green card. He had recently married his wife Esther on January 17, 2017 and she had sponsored him for his green card. Shimon did not have a driver’s license or state issued ID. He instead submitted an ID card from CWNevada, a Las Vegas local cannabis cultivator and distributor. The card had been issued to Shimon from the company facility, for him to observe operations as an agronomist.
The use of the CWNevada card as a form of ID was suggested by Shimon’s then legal counsel. This was a referral from a friend whom he believed to be an attorney. Shimon didn’t think the ID would be a problem since he was working in Nevada’s legal cannabis industry. Upon meeting with an immigration officer for a green card interview on December 15, 2017, he discussed his recent work in the cannabis industry. Five days later Shimon received a letter denying his application on the grounds of being a “controlled substance trafficker.” Shimon was instructed to report to McCarran International Airport the morning of January 8, 2018 to depart back to Tel Aviv.
“So the meaning of that is all the people that work in the cannabis industry, they are a trafficker by federal law, they are a criminal by federal law and they have nothing to protect them,” Shimon stated. Technically, the scenario he described is correct other than for “protections” like the Cole Memo provides. Shimon’s new attorney, Ed Prudhomme said he would have advised against submitting that specific identification. Mainly because of the difference between state and federal laws in the US regarding cannabis. Prudhomme mentioned that the dilemma between the two varying laws are the results and cause of Shimon’s scenario.
All Shimon can do at this point is wait and see if the federal government will grant a motion to open his case again. Prudhomme wants to point out that Shimon did not work for CWNevada but only visited the facility, which does make a difference. The process may be long but he is ready to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if need be. Shimon and his wife are contemplating moving her to Tel Aviv as well. At least until a decision is made by US officials.
By Tracy Jerome Chisley (@PoeticPanther)
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