An American college student has been jailed in Russia for possession of medical marijuana. Audrey Elizabeth Lorber, 19, was studying film at Pace University in Manhattan. Lorber was detained and arrested with 19.05 grams of cannabis following a search at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg. The date of her arrest remains unclear. According to the Moscow Times, Lorber has pled guilty to drug possession, a violation of Article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Cannabis' Legality Doesn't Extend Past State Borders
With cannabis legalization booming over here in the United States, it’s easy to forget how controversial marijuana remains in many countries around the world. In states with progressive recreational cannabis policy like Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington, possession of 19.05 grams of cannabis is practically a non-issue. Most states that have legalized marijuana for medical use have also decriminalized cannabis in general, taking the punishment for possession of up to several ounces down from a felony to a petty misdemeanor. In Russia, a drug possession charge could land you in jail for up to three years. Lorber was allegedly in possession of cannabis obtained legally with a prescription from a medical dispensary in the United States, however, a statement posted September 2nd on the encrypted platform Telegram read, “The defendant’s patent in the U.S. on marijuana use as part of a medical program doesn’t extend to Russian territory.” The U.S. State Department made a statement on Monday, saying, “We take seriously our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens abroad. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.” According to a recent NBC New York article, Democratic Congressman Max Rose of Staten Island has expressed his concern over Lorber’s detainment, emphasizing that he is currently “working to help get Audrey home as soon as possible because no American citizen should be held in jail for a medical condition.” Social media posts on Instagram and Facebook, dating from over a month ago, show Audrey and her mother touring the city, posing together for photographs. Along with her college studies, Audrey was also working as a waitress at the Waterside Restaurant in Tottenville. Her boss, Joey Guli, spoke with the New York Post this week, saying he had spoken with Audrey’s mother and that, “She’s hysterical. She moved out there and got an apartment just to try to get [Audrey] on house arrest, but they didn’t give it to her. It’s disgusting what they did. They are trying to throw the book at her.” This comes only a few months after an American Israeli woman, Naama Issachar, 25, was charged with drug smuggling. Issachar is now facing a 10-year maximum sentence in a Moscow jail for bringing 9 grams of cannabis into Russia. According to an article by the Jerusalem Post, a judge recently extended Issachar’s pre-trial detention. The judge declined to hear statements by Issachar’s defense attorney at that time. Issachar is continuing to be held in a Moscow police station without access to personal visits or phone calls.