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Justices take marijuana deportation case

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether an alien’s state-law conviction for possessing marijuana with intent to distribute constitutes an “aggravated felony” justifying deportation, even though the record of conviction does not show that the underlying conduct would constitute a felony under federal law.

The court last week agreed to review a 5th Circuit decision holding that a Georgia marijuana conviction should be considered a felony under the federal Controlled Substances Act and an aggravated felony for purposes of immigration law.

The defendant is a native of Jamaica with permanent residency status in the U.S. He pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana with intent to distribute in Georgia. Federal immigration authorities subsequently commenced removal proceedings, concluding that the defendant had committed an aggravated felony within the meaning of federal immigration law.

The case is Moncrieffe v. Holder, No. 11-702.

The defendant argued that his state conviction should not be considered a deportable felony offense because the Georgia drug law at issue encompasses misdemeanors. More specifically, the defendant contended that, because the record of his conviction failed to disclose the amount of marijuana involved or that he sought remuneration, his drug conviction should be treated as a federal misdemeanor.