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Another American Caught With Weed in Russia Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

An American citizen, lecturer, and teacher were sentenced to 14 year imprisonment for the possession of a tiny amount of cannabis in his suitcase at an international airport in Moscow. It’s the latest move in a series of harsh sentences dished out on Americans in the country, including WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Marc Hilliard Fogel was 60 years old when he was stopped at Sheremetyevo in Moscow with half an ounce (14.1 grams) of cannabis in different forms. After a string of severe surgeries, Fogel received medical marijuana for chronic pain from a US doctor.

Fogels were familiar with the airport security because they had taught abroad for many years. Something went terribly wrong, and Fogel told his wife he’d packed 14 vape carts and put some flower in a contact lens case. Fogel thought that he would be able to stash some of the vapes in his suitcase for the return trip to Russia from a U.S. trip. The Fogels were heading back to Moscow to celebrate Marc’s 10th year of teaching the children of U.S. diplomats.

Russian police discovered the weed, and he immediately knew the country doesn’t play games when it comes to cannabis, especially when it’s a U.S. citizen. But Fogel assumed he’d be looking at deportation, or some other punishment—not hard time.

Fogel has already spent 11 months in various Russian detainment centers for his “crime.” But hearing the judge say “14 years” was a crushing moment for Fogel and his family, The Washington Post reports.

“There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Marc will be left behind,” Jane Fogel told The Washington Post. “It’s terrifying. I would hope that President Biden and especially first lady Jill Biden, who is an educator, realize the importance of including Marc in addition to Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.”

You can’t help but make the connections to WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, who is currently being detained for her “crime” of a couple of vape pens. Since Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there is a  “substantial proposal” to free both Griner and another unjustly detained American, Paul Whelan, Fogel’s family has hope that he might not have to sit in prison for 14 years.

Fogel received food such as a bowl of gruel or dried apricots depending on the Russian prison where he was held.

“He says what he wants in English, someone translates for him, one of his cellmates, and depending on how good their English is is how accurate of a picture we get of what is happening,” Anne Fogel said. “It’s very convoluted and it’s incredibly worrisome because we can’t really have an honest conversation. All information is subject to censorship. It’s harrowing.”

But for Marc, he wasn’t happy to hear Griner might be released before himself. “That hurt,” Marc Fogel wrote in a letter. “Teachers are at least as important as ballers.”

Russia: Reality

President Vladimir Putin ramped up punishments for citizens and tourists alike including one particular new law that dishes out sentences of up to 15 years in prison for people who distribute “false news” about the Russian military. Russia has been accused of using prison sentences as a “tool for exercising control over society” by the Centre for Eastern Studies.

The Fogels are now calling to President Joe Biden to step in and get him out of Russian prison—just as efforts are being made to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, CNN reports.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 20, 2022, relations between the U.S. and Russia have been strained to no end. It’s typical of Russia to rebrand normal U.S. citizens and athletes as drug pins, often allegedly with political motivations.

A petition has been signed by nearly 5,000 people already Change.orgMarc Fogel should be released from Russian wrongful detention