President Vladimir Putin Asked to Release Woman Held on Cannabis Charges

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent a request on Oct. 13 to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to pardon an Israeli-American woman who was caught in possession of cannabis.  Naama Issachar, 26, was caught with 9.6 grams (a little over a quarter ounce) of cannabis in her luggage and now faces hard time in a Russian prison.

Issachar was merely transferring at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow during a trip from India to Israel. Issachar said she accidentally left the cannabis in her bags after traveling overseas the past three months.

Issachar was sentenced to sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail by a Russian court on Friday. Israeli authorities believe the sentence is quite harsh, given how medical cannabis is embraced in Israel.

“Naama made a grave mistake and has admitted her crime, but in the case of a young woman with no criminal record, the severe sentence handed down will have a deeply destructive impact on her life,” Rivlin wrote in a letter to Putin. “I am appealing to your mercy and compassion with a request for your personal intervention to grant her an extraordinary pardon.”

Moscow, on the other hand, is reportedly seeking a deal to prevent the extradition of Aleksey Burkov, a Russian citizen who has been held in an Israeli prison since 2015. But Israeli officials said there is no possible way to prevent the extradition, because a supreme court ruling has already been made.

Russia is among the countries with the harshest drug possession laws. According to a report from the Council of Europe, Russia holds the title for the highest number of people per capital imprisoned for drug-related crimes out of all European countries. In addition, Russia is prone to censorship about anything cannabis-related, including Wikipedia entries about the historical use of cannabis.

Israel partially decriminalized recreational cannabis use, with a reemphasis on treatment instead of criminal charges. For now, Issachar remains at the mercy of Russian authorities until a deal is made to set her free.

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