Russia has jailed a former US embassy staffer for 14 years after he was caught with medical marijuana. Marc Fogel was caught with illegal drugs at the Moscow airport in 2021.
The move comes amid the heightening tensions between two superpowers over the Ukraine war.
Fogel Was Arrested in January 2021
Russian officials had arrested Fogel in January 2021 in Moscow when he came from New York with his wife at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.
Officials had revealed that marijuana and hash oil were found in his luggage during the custom checks. Contact lens cases and e-cigarette cartridges were used to hide the drugs.
Marijuana Was Packaged In The Contact Lens Case
"The drugs were carefully disguised: marijuana was packaged in the contact lens case, and cannabis oil was contained in e-cigarette cartridges. All of it was wrapped in plastic and hidden in his sneakers," said Russia's Interior Ministry in a statement when he was arrested.
Fogel claims that marijuana was for medical issues as it's prescribed in the US following a spinal operation. But so far, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is not legal in Russia.
When Fogel was arrested, he was a teacher in the Anglo-American School of Moscow. However, he had diplomatic immunity due to his previous profile at the US embassy, reported Al Jazeera.
He had provided his services at the US embassy in Moscow and his diplomatic immunity lasted till May 2021.
The prison sentence came amid the Ukraine war when the US and the West imposed a number of sanctions against Russia and seized assets of oligarchs, who are close to President Vladimir Putin.
Russian authorities had argued that Fogel had planned to use his diplomatic status to organize a drug smuggling into Russia for possibly selling among the students in his school.
Fogel, who claims to have brought around 17 grams, or just over half an ounce of marijuana to Russia, had stated that he didn't know that Moscow banned medical marijuana.