Watch CBS News

Russia frees American teen convicted of "attempting to import" prescription marijuana

Moscow — A court in St. Petersburg released a young American woman from prison on Monday after she spent more than a month behind bars on a drug charge. Audrey Lorber was released from custody after the court found her guilty of "attempting to import marijuana purchased in the U.S. into Russia."

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.  

Lorber was required to remain in St. Petersburg for 10 days until the sentence technically comes into force, court officials told CBS News. During that period either Lorber or the government have the right to appeal the ruling, but no appeals were immediately filed.

Once the 10 days pass, and assuming there are no appeals of her sentence from the prosecution service, Lorber will be allowed to travel back to the U.S.

She was arrested in late July after arriving in St. Petersburg on vacation with her mother. She was detained at the airport after authorities found about 19 grams of marijuana on her.

Airport Lounge, St. Petersburg
A file photo taken inside the terminal at Pulkovo International Airport in St. Petersburg, Russia. Getty/iStockphoto

Lorber argued the drug was prescribed to her for medical reasons and even showed a prescription, but the police said it wasn't valid in Russia as marijuana remains illegal to possess, store, transport or sell in the country.

The teenager's defense team petitioned the court to allow Lorber to remain out of jail pending the full investigation and trial, but the judge rejected the request and had her moved to a pre-trial detention center.

Lorber later pleaded guilty to the charge of attempting to import the drug into Russia. Charges of possession, storing, transporting and selling drugs in Russia are outlined in Article 228 of the Criminal Code, dubbed "the people's article" because of its widespread and often controversial implementation by law enforcement agencies.

In 2018, more than 88,000 people were found guilty of various drug charges, according to Supreme Court data. More than 41% of them were sentenced to prison terms.

Earlier this summer prominent investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was charged with an attempt to sell drugs under the Article 228. Golunov argued the drugs were planted on him; his arrest sparked unprecedented outrage and mass protests in Moscow. Several days after the arrest the charged against him were dropped.

Russian investigative journalist Golunov attends a court hearing in Moscow
Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who was detained by police and accused of drug offences, reacts inside a defendants' cage as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia June 8, 2019. The writing on the T-shirt reads "Editorial desk demands blood." TATYANA MAKEYEVA / REUTERS
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.