Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a pardon for Naama Issachar, a dual US-Israeli citizen who faced 7.5 years in prison just for flying with a small bag of weed.
The pardon, granted by presidential decree on Wednesday, is “effective immediately,” CNN reported.
In April 2019, Issachar stopped for a layover at Moscow airport while flying from India to Tel Aviv. During the layover, a police drug-sniffing dog zeroed in on Issachar’s carry-on bag as it passed through a security checkpoint. Russian cops allegedly found 9.6 grams, or less than half an ounce of cannabis, in the bag.
While Issachar initially admitted that the weed was hers, she denied the harshest charge laid against her: drug smuggling. And if you know your weed weights, 9.6 grams hardly qualifies for possession these days, much less a drug smuggling charge. Heck, some people can smoke an entire 10 grams of pot in a single sesh. According to the Times of Israel, mere weed possession in Russia usually carries a maximum sentence of a few months in prison, but a drug smuggling conviction could carry a sentence of up to 10 years.
Last October, an Israeli official revealed that Russian authorities were using Issachar as a bargaining chip. In exchange for Issachar’s freedom, the Russian government wanted Israel to release Aleksey Burkov, an IT specialist who allegedly ran a credit card embezzlement scheme that scammed millions of dollars from American marks. Although Burkov was wanted in the US, Israeli authorities arrested him in 2016 at Interpol’s request.
Despite Russia’s attempt at swapping a suspected cyber thief for a woman whose only crime was smoking weed, it fell through. By the time Russia tried to broker the deal, Israeli officials had already arranged Burkov’s extradition to the US.
Instead of reclaiming its “IT specialist,” Russia’s detainment of Issachar created an international shitstorm. After all, she has no criminal record prior to her Moscow arrest, whereas Putin’s government has been accused of employing hackers to execute everything from stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Western banks to rigging the 2016 US Presidential Election.
The incident caused such a stir months ago that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly spoke directly with Putin to release Issachar.
“I thank my friend, President Putin, on his granting of a pardon to Naama Issachar," Netanyahu told a press conference on Wednesday.
According to the Russian president’s decree, Issachar was pardoned on “humanitarian principles.” Though, really, if we’re being humanitarian here, no one should ever get arrested, jailed, or imprisoned simply for possessing some weed.