American Student Audrey Lorber Released by Russia, but Case Reveals a More Sinister Problem

 

On September 9th, we covered the continuing story of Audrey Elizabeth Lorber, a medical cannabis patient who was arrested in Russia after trying to bring her medicine into the country.

As we stated earlier, this was a reminder that marijuana laws in the U.S. or Canada do not apply across international borders – a lesson Lorber learned the hard way.

After being caught at the airport, Lorber was detained and charged with “attempting to import” 19 grams of marijuana. Despite showing evidence of her prescription, authorities advised that this held no weight in Russia, where marijuana is completely illegal.

Now, after over a month in a detention centre, CBS News reports that Lorber is finally free after receiving what could arguably be called a slap on the wrist.

 

A Fine and Time Served

 

All things considered, Lorber was rather lucky. Given the rocky relations between Russia and the U.S., leniency is something we would not expect. Fortunately, the court was relatively light with its sentence.

CBS News explains:

 

“Lorber, 19, was fined 15,000 rubles ($235), according to a statement released by the press service of St. Petersburg’s courts, but was credited for time served, released and exempted from paying the fine.”

 

The proceedings, however, were not as favourable. Lorber’s defence team asked the judge not to jail her for the duration of the case, but their request was denied. She then spent a month in a pre-trial detention centre.

However, this may have been a blessing in disguise, since the crediting of time served implies that she could have faced prison time had she not been jailed in the first place.

Ultimately, the 19-year-old pled guilty to importing marijuana.

 

“The People’s Article”

 

Laws surrounding drug violations like possession, selling, distributing and transporting drugs all fall under Article 228 of the Criminal Code.

Also referred to as “The People’s Article,” this section has drawn a great deal of criticism, according to CBS News.

Although the law’s intent is to outline Russia’s drug laws, law enforcement often uses it in a rather heavy-handed manner, often as a form of censorship and persecution.

In 2018, approximately 88,000 people were convicted under Article 228, with 41% serving time in prison.

One famous case involved Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who allegedly had drugs planted on him by police. However, massive public backlash ultimately caused authorities to drop the charges just days later, lending to the suspicion that Golunov had in fact been framed using “The People’s Article.”

 

Why WeedAdvisor Supports Cannabis Reform

 

WeedAdvisor has always stood by individuals and groups calling for changes in marijuana legislation. But of all the ways prohibition has harmed the public, Russia’s is arguably the most sinister we have seen so far.

It is one thing to prosecute marijuana users under the misguided view of enforcing public safety. But to knowingly use cannabis prohibition as a weapon is both deviously creative and absolutely appalling.

But with talks of medical and recreational legalization continuing to sweep across Europe, we hope that the Russian Federation will eventually see the merits of lifting prohibition. However, if they rely on it to silence opposition, cannabis reform is unlikely to come easily.

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