Another U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Over Medical Marijuana In Russia

Another U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Over Medical Marijuana In Russia

Another U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Over Medical Marijuana In Russia

Another U.S. Citizen is imprisoned and sentenced to 14 years in Russia for low-level possession of medical marijuana. 

A coalition of bipartisan senators wrote in a letter that the State Department should reclassify the charge as a “wrongfully detained” person.

The letter, led by Senator Bob Casey, argues that Marc Fogel is facing a “disproportionate 14-year sentence” over less than an ounce of cannabis for which he is legally registered to use as a medical patient in Pennsylvania. 

They informed Secretary Of State Antony Blinken Fogel fulfills several criteria for being wrongfully detained, enabling him to use enhanced diplomatic resources to secure his release.

Most of us are already aware of the tragic case of Brittney Griner. The WNBA player was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison after she pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana vape cartridges she was authorized to use in Arizona. Griner is already designated as wrongfully detained. 

Another U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Over Medical Marijuana In Russia

Another U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Over Medical Marijuana In Russia: Bipartisan Support

The senators write, “Mr. Fogel’s recent 14-year sentence to a maximum-security penal colony for possession of less than an ounce of medical marijuana can only be understood as a political ploy by Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.”

They continue, “Mr. Fogel, a 61-year-old with severe medical conditions, has already been detained for a year. The United States cannot stand by as Mr. Fogel wastes away in a Russian hard labor camp.”

The senators continue that as the State Department continues to “negotiate the release of Ms. Griner” due to a similar low-level cannabis offense, they argue that Fogel’s case “warrants the same degree of political attention and diplomatic intervention.”

“We strongly urge the State Department to shift its strategy given the realities of Marc Fogel’s situation and act immediately to designate him as ‘wrongfully detained.’ Such a designation will provide the warranted level of support to Marc Fogel’s family after a year of communication with Mr. Fogel only via mail. Most importantly, it will require the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to secure Mr. Fogel’s freedom. We cannot allow Mr. Fogel to be used as a political pawn by Vladimir Putin.”

americans imprisoned by russia

Americans Detained In Russia

Nine senators signed the letter, including some who have taken hostile positions regarding cannabis reform.

Senators. Marco Rubio (R–FL), Jon Tester (D–MT), Steve Daines (R–MT), John Hickenlooper (D–CO), Pat Toomey (R–PA), Joe Manchin (D–WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R–WV) and Tim Kaine (D–VA) joined Casey for the letter.

They noted that Fogel “has lived with chronic pain for decades” after undergoing multiple surgeries that failed to alleviate his pain.

“A doctor recommended medical marijuana as an opioid alternative to treat his chronic pain” in 2021.”

The fact that cannabis was tacitly recognized as an opioid substitute is particularly intriguing considering the many domestic marijuana policy views in the signatories.

They write, “though Mr. Fogel did violate Russian law by bringing 17 grams of marijuana to the country, his sentence is grossly disproportionate to similar cases.”

“As Russian lawyers have pointed out, the most common sentence in similar cases is five years of probation.”

This comes just a few weeks after another bipartisan member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation pleaded with the State Department to escalate Fogel’s case. There are parallels between Griner’s and Fogel’s cannabis-related convictions.

A senior White House official stated last month that they have been “looking into” Fogel’s case. However, no announcements were made. He is not part of the prisoner swap deal involving Griner, and Paul Whelan, who is currently serving 16 years for alleged Russian espionage.

Another U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Over Medical Marijuana In Russia: Biden Administration’s Inaction

Advocates have raised concerns about the Biden administration’s treatment of the Griner and Fogel cases.

Furthermore, advocates disagree with how the Biden Administration handled the Griner and Fogel cases. They also question the president’s willingness to spend so much political capital on one American being held for cannabis use in Russia while refusing to take meaningful steps to fulfill campaign promises that marijuana would be decriminalized domestically and release people incarcerated for it from the U.S. prisons.

Biden made his first comment publicly on marijuana policy since taking office last month, stating that he doesn’t believe people should have to be imprisoned over the use of the plant.

However, even with the executive power to grant mass pardons for people with federal cannabis convictions, the administration is still examining its clemency alternatives recently, White House Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Russia has a very strong stance in opposition to reforming cannabis policy on the international level through United Nations.

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