A former U.S. diplomat was sentenced last week to 14 years in prison by a Russian court for “large-scale” cannabis smuggling, CBS News reports. Marc Fogel, a teacher at the Anglo-American School in Moscow, was arrested by customs officers in Moscow in August 2021 after they found cannabis in his luggage.
Fogel maintains that he has a recommendation to use cannabis medically in the U.S.; however, Russia has not legalized cannabis for any purpose. Alexander Khurudzhi, a member of a Moscow human rights committee who visited Fogel in December, said Fogel “claims he was unaware of Russia’s ban” on medical cannabis.
Russia’s Interior Ministry has not specified the amount of cannabis Fogel was caught with but he told attorneys that he brought about 17 grams which would be considered a “significant” amount under Russian law, which defines a significant amount as anything between 6-100 grams; a large amount is anything over 100 grams, the report says.
Last week Russian authorities extended the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner until at least July 2 after she was allegedly caught with cannabis vape cartridges while going through customs. Griner’s detention in Russia has been extended three times and she faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. She is considered “wrongfully detained” by U.S. officials.
Russia and U.S. relations have been strained by the former’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, several Americans are detained in Russian prisons, and vice versa.
The U.S. Embassy has not commented on Fogel’s diplomatic status which might have held as a member of the staff at the Anglo-American school, which was previously run by the embassy.
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