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U.S. English Teacher Sentenced to 14 Years in Russia for Pot ‘Smuggling’

Marc Fogel, a former diplomat to the U.S. Embassy was sentenced recently to 14 years imprisonment for marijuana trafficking. Fogel worked as an English teacher in Moscow at Anglo-American School, Russia, apart from his U.S. Embassy role. Fogel was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport with 17 grams or 0.6 ounces of cannabis. He enjoyed diplomatic immunity up to May 2021.

According to a recent Moscow court ruling, “The American citizen Fogel has been found guilty” because of “large-scale drugs smuggling, large-scale illegal storage of drugs without a commercial purpose.”

Fogel stated that Fogel was told by his doctor that medical cannabis had been prescribed to him to help with pain after he underwent spinal surgery. “He insists that it was medical marijuana and claims that a doctor prescribed it to him in the United States, which is allegedly confirmed by an entry in the medical record,” said Moscow human rights committee member Alexander Khurudzhi. Fogel also claimed that Fogel did not know medical cannabis was an illegal substance.

A Russian news agency called Interfax reported that Fogel has plead guilty to these charges: “On June 16, 2022, the Khimki City Court of the Moscow region found U.S. citizen Marc Fogel guilty of committing crimes under Part 3 of Article 229.1 (drug smuggling), Part 2 of Article 228 (illegal acquisition, possession, transportation, manufacture, and processing of narcotic drugs) of the Russian Criminal Code, and sentenced him to 14 years’ imprisonment to be served in a high-security penal colony,” Interfax wrote.

This decision was made in the exact same place that Brittney griner, a WNBA player, was detained for having vape cartridges. Lebron James recently called for help. “We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!! Our voice as athletes is stronger together,” James said on Twitter, in partnership with a support campaign called “We Are BG” from Uninterrupted.

“For over 100 days, BG has faced inhumane conditions in a Russian prison and has been denied communications with her family and loved ones,” Uninterrupted wrote and shared on social media. “As a decorated Olympian and member of an elite global sport community, BG’s detention must be resolved out of respect for the sanctity of all sport and for all Americans traveling internationally. It is imperative that the U.S. Government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home.”

According to TMZ Roy Jones Jr., a famous Boxer (who holds dual citizenship in Russia & the U.S.), is currently helping Griner be released. However, most recent coverage reports that Griner’s detention will last until at least July 7.

Both adult-use as well as medical marijuana are illegal in Russia. This isn’t the first time that cannabis has gotten foreign visitors to Russia in hot water. In 2019, a 26-year-old woman traveling from India to Israel was found in possession of nine grams of cannabis—to which she received over seven months of time in prison for drug trafficking (although she was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2020). Similar to the above, a 19 year old student in film traveled to Russia in possession of 19 grams medical cannabis. After spending a month in prison she was issued a fine in Russian rubles (about $1230)

Steven Hawkins, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council told Griner that he believed Griner was guilty. AZcentral.comThe conviction of targeted people is often made possible by cannabis possession. “In this case, Russian authorities appear to be using alleged cannabis possession as a pretext for holding a prominent American as leverage. Russia must not use Brittney Griner as a pawn. We urge the U.S. government to use all available channels to secure her speedy return home.”