A U.S. citizen who’s imprisoned in Russia over low-level possession of medical marijuana should be reclassified by the State Department as a “wrongfully detained” person, a coalition of bipartisan senators said in a new letter.
The letter, led by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), argues that Marc Fogel is facing a “disproportionate 14-year sentence” over possessing less than an ounce of cannabis that he’s registered to use as a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania.
They told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Fogel meets several criteria to be considered a wrongfully detained person, which would entitle him to enhanced diplomatic resources to secure his release.
WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was similarly sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after she pled guilty to possessing cannabis vape cartridges that she was authorized to use in Arizona as a registered medical marijuana patient, is already designated as wrongfully detained by the State Department.
“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,” the senators wrote. “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.”
They said that as the State Department continues to “negotiate the release of Ms. Griner” over a similar, low-level marijuana offense, 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 and, most importantly, 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.”
The letter was signed by nine senators, including a few that have previously taken hostile positions on cannabis reform.
Sens. 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 on the letter.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Kyle Jaeger on Marijuana Moment
Published: August 24, 2022
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