Congress Members To Biden: Why Isn't Medical Marijuana Patient Jailed In Russia Considered 'Wrongfully Detained'?

Four bipartisan lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require the State Department to explain to Congress why it has not designated Marc Fogel, who is serving time in Russia for possessing medical marijuana, “wrongfully detained.”

U.S. Reps Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Reps Chris Deluzio (D-PA) and Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced The Marc Fogel Act on Tuesday. 

“By introducing this legislation, we reaffirm our collective commitment to bring Marc Fogel home,” Kelly said. “For too long, we have pressed the Biden administration to declare Mr. Fogel as wrongfully detained by the Russian government. This legislation would allow Congress to receive critical information not only about Mr. Fogel and why he has not received this declaration, but also for other Americans who may be imprisoned or held hostage abroad in the future."

Stonewalling Efforts?

The legislation would require more transparency from the State Department to Congress on how wrongful detainment determinations are made.

“Marc Fogel meets six of the eleven criteria established by the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act to be designated as wrongfully detained,” Reschenthaler said in a press release. “The Department has failed to do either and refused to explain its inaction – effectively stonewalling my efforts to bring him home.” 

Fogel, who previously worked at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was employed as an English teacher at the Anglo-American School also in Moscow. At the time of his arrest in 2021, Fogel had a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana from a physician in Pennsylvania to treat his chronic back pain.

Fogel, who is in his 60s, was sentenced in June 2022, to 14 years of hard labor.

“It is far past time for the U.S. State Department to designate Marc Fogel as wrongfully detained in Russia, and this bill will help bring daylight into the process that the Department uses for cases like his and other Americans imprisoned overseas,” said Deluzio. 

The Marc Fogel Act would require the State Department to provide Congress with copies of documents and communications on why a wrongful determination has not been made in cases of U.S. nationals detained abroad within six months of arrest.
WNBA star Brittney Griner was declared “wrongfully detained” by the Biden administration two months after she was detained at a Moscow airport in February 2022 for having cannabis oil in her suitcase. 

The Biden administration has never explained why it has not designated Marc Fogel as wrongfully detained.

"No American should be left behind and I pray Mr. Fogel will be reunited with his wonderful family as soon as possible.” Kelly said.


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