Drug War

Russia Sentences Israeli-American Traveler to 7.5 Years in Prison for 9 Grams of Pot

Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old woman who was arrested while catching a connecting flight in Moscow, was charged with drug smuggling.


Today an Israeli woman caught with nine grams of marijuana (less than a third of an ounce) while catching a connecting flight in Moscow was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for drug smuggling. That's 10 months for each gram.

Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old who is also a U.S. citizen, was arrested in April while returning to Israel after spending three months in India. A drug-sniffing dog at the Moscow airport alerted to her backpack, where security agents found her stash wrapped in plastic inside a toiletry bag.

Under Russian law, possessing less than six grams of marijuana is an administrative offense punishable by up to 15 days of detention and a 1,000-ruble fine. Acquiring six grams or more of marijuana without the intent to sell it is subject to criminal penalties, including up to three years in prison. But Issachar was charged with smuggling marijuana into Russia, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

"This is a substantial and disproportionate punishment for a young Israeli with no criminal record, who arrived in Moscow with the intention of catching a connecting flight on her way home to Israel," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a press release. "Unfortunately, Russian authorities have not as yet heeded our requests to conduct the case appropriately in accordance to the circumstances of her arrest.​"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "requested a commuting of the sentence and an easing of the terms of Naama's detention," according to a statement from his office. "To our regret, the Russian prosecution has not yet accepted to these requests." The office added that Issachar's sentence "is disproportionate and does not fit the nature of the offense being attributed" to her.

The Times of Israel reports that "a senior Israeli official told Hebrew media that Russia offered several times in recent months to free Issachar if Israel agrees to release Aleksey Burkov, a Russian IT specialist who was arrested in Israel in 2016 at the request of Interpol." Burkov "is wanted on embezzlement charges in the United States for a massive credit card scheme that saw him allegedly steal millions of dollars from American consumers."

Issachar's family told Channel 13 news she is being used as a "hostage" to secure Burkov's release. "Until now we've been dealing with trying to prove there was not attempted drug smuggling," they said, "but now we understand that this is a larger matter. Naama is being held as a hostage."

NEXT: This Case, Which Resulted in a 20-Year Prison Sentence, Supposedly Showed How Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law Lets People Get Away With Murder

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. during a stop in the Moscow airport on her way from India back to Israel

    I know Delta routs flights from Denver to Chicago through Atlanta (probably), but is it normal to fly through Moscow on the way from India to Israel?

    1. If you are buying a cheap ticket on a developing country airline, yeah it can happen. Inexpensive flights into Thailand from the US sometimes go through Qatar.

      1. Thanks for the info. Not even gonna ask about your extensive knowledge of cheap flights to Bangkok, what with this being a libertarian site and all.

        1. I’m also suspecting Peacedog knows to just leave the nine grams behind when making those cheap connecting flights.

          1. Flying third party airlines is a good way to save money when flying international. That said, you get what you pay for in terms of safety, customer service, etc.

            Really good ones like Cathay Pacific don’t cost much less than a major US carrier.

            Really crappy ones may be your only choice when going into certain places like sub-Saharan Africa, the ‘Stans, etc.

            And only a moron carries any form of contraband onboard an international flight. The penalties in third world countries can be remarkably severe.

            1. Japan is real tough on mj.

            2. If you gotta budget your flight you probably gotta budget your weed.

              But yeah, it’s nuts to fly international with verboten substances. If nothing else you are inviting a budget crushing shakedown.

          2. He’s going to Thailand man. He knows he can get way more than 9 grams for way less there. Probably before leaving the airport.

    2. I earned $5000 last month by working online just for 5 to 8 hours on my laptop and this was so easy that i myself could not believe before working on this site. AGz If You too want to earn such a big money tehn come and join us.

      CLICK HERE►►GoogleJobsCompany.com

  2. This is terrible and all. But had she never heard anything about Russia? Think their going to be cool about weed?

    1. Especially when weed is so readily accessible in Israel. Perhaps she forgot about it.

      1. Yeah but this was INDIAN weed.

  3. Pro tip: When traveling anywhere outside of the United Sates, knuckle the fuck up if you’re carrying ANY quantity of illegal drugs.

    Oh, speaking of American Values, this is a tweet.

    “Free speech is a bedrock value in this country. But it isn’t the only one. Like all values, it must be held in tension with others, such as equality, safety and robust democratic participation,” writes

    1. Andrew Marantz is an ass. Freedom of speech is the foundation of representative government, which is why the founders included it in the First Amendment, not the Last.

    2. There is only one bedrock value, liberty. All other values are its consequences.

    3. Be careful in the US too, in many states any quantity, even residue, of any Schedule 1 or 2 drug besides pot is a felony and absolutely will be charged as such.

    4. Hell, even though weed is legal in Canada it is still a crime to cross the border – in or out – with it.

      1. (Unless you are an authorized importer)

    5. AndrewMarantz, what a cunt.

  4. Airports should definitely be some kind of amnesty zone where local law only applies after you exit customs, otherwise law of the sea should apply. But seriously, “authoritarian regimes turns out, maybe not great places to be” is news to reason?

    1. Particularly with a charge like smuggling drugs into Russia when she had no intention to ever leave the airport.

      1. Hopefully Russia’s vigorous appeals process will correct this injustice.

        1. Yes. They will add more years to the sentence.

    2. Sorry, but you have to follow the laws of the country you are in, which includes airports. If you’re stupid enough to pack weed in your luggage, you will suffer the consequences, particularly in foreign countries. US airports also have weed-sniffing dogs that routinely check luggage. Of course, the penalty for having some in your luggage is dependent on where the airport is and how much you have.

  5. Harsh sentence, for sure. But what the fuck are you thinking, taking that stuff on an international flight?

    1. I doubt a 26 year old pothead is doing much thinking at all.

      26-year-old pothead WOMAN at that…

  6. Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old who is also a U.S. citizen, was arrested in April while returning to Israel after spending three months in India. A drug-sniffing dog at the Moscow airport alerted to her backpack, where security agents found her stash wrapped in plastic inside a toiletry bag.

    So… serious question for the weed smokers… nine grams. What is the mental disposition of your average toker— is nine grams worth hiding in your bag when flying internationally with stopovers in Russia (or Turkey– just start naming them) or is 9 grams something you’d just give to a friend and say, “Dude, can’t carry on the plane, broheim, enjoy.”

    1. Paul I just looked up the price of hash in India. At most, it would have cost $20. In Israel 5 grams is said to cost $50. US prices probably up toe $35 a gram. So even at the highest a little more than $300. Crazy.

      And as a weed smoker, I wouldn’t carry across any international border regardless of vehicle.

      1. 9 grams better not cost more than $100 in the US. Ok, maybe $120 for some top shelf shit. And that’s in one of the pricey markets on the East Coast.

  7. And for the record…would.

    1. Of course – you already know she makes bad decisions.

      1. https://www.instagram.com/_inaama/?utm_source=ig_embed

        It had more to do with the shape this minx is in.

  8. See? Drugs ruin your life. Just say no.

    Well, at least say no to taking drugs across borders; no one is really that stupid, are they? I wonder what the real story is?

  9. Israeli is busted in Russia upon arriving from India.

    Offered in exchange for a Russian arrested by Israel.

    Why do I care?

  10. Dumbass!!! She should get locked up!!!

      1. Who would guard the dumb guards?

  11. The younger generation needs to watch Midnight Express before they gallivanting around the globe.

  12. If you are flying internationally, don’t carry illegal drugs with you. If you are from a place where marijuana is legal, but you know you are traveling to places where it is not, leave it at home.

    Yes, Russia’s punishment is too harsh. With Russia, it is possible a big enough bribe might commute the sentence. If she was flying through Singapore, she would be put to death.

    It is great to personally be libertarian on drug policy. However, when flying internationally, don’t be an idiot. Do not bring contraband on the plane. If you have a prescription drug, have the bottles they came in and your doctor’s card especially if you take somethings that might have street value like opium based pain medicine.

    1. Thanks, Olga. Good, clear advice. It’s hard to get worked up about this story when compared with e.g. Singapore or Philippines. The woman was either dumb or arrogant or (most likely?) both, and the Russians pounced. Boo hoo.

  13. Russia Sentences Israeli-American Traveler to 7.5 Years in Prison for (being extremely stupid about traveling through a totalitarian country with) 9 Grams of Pot

    1. while it was foolish of her to do that, it doesn’t mean the shitheads who did this too her are any less shitheady.

      1. It’s draconian for sure…but it’s not like this was unknown.

        At a certain point, you have to not make bone headed choices.

        Do I think the whole “Don’t say bomb in an airport” thing is asinine? Yes. But I’m still not going to do it because the principle isn’t worth the headache involved.

  14. Drugs should be legal. Citizens shouldn’t be used as political pawns. Still, why would you bring drugs into Russia or any other foreign country. Americans and Israeli’s should have even more interest in not being an idiot in Russia.

    1. Yeah, it’s not like Russia has an idiot shortage and needs to import more.

  15. If you cannot be separated from your recreational drug for a day when you know you going into situation where your possessions will be searched by governments with questionable commitments to civil liberties, then that does indicate that marijuana use makes you stupid.

    1. Or that some marijuana users are stupid. I think that’s a more reasonable conclusion based on the available evidence.

      1. It was a joke.

    2. they don’t call it dope ’cause it makes you smarter lol

  16. Shoulda shoved it in her cooch. Or one of those nostrils.

  17. Israel should make the deal with the Russians.

    1. “Earlier Friday, a senior Israeli official told Hebrew media that Russia offered several times in recent months to free Issachar if Israel agrees to release Burkov.

      “The official said the deal never went ahead because Israel had already begun the official extradition process, and also didn’t want to anger the US. Israeli diplomatic officials told their counterparts in Moscow that it was impossible to stop Burkov’s extradition since the Supreme Court had already approved the move.”


      1. Here’s the extradition treaty – if Israel can find a loophole more power to them, but if the U. S. has the right to demand extradition it’s not up to Israel to look the other way.


        And imagine the “U. S. bows to Russia” headlines if the Trump administration lets this alleged fraudster off the hook.

        1. Because Netanyahu knows.

          His brother died rescuing captives in Uganda.

          One girl is how much sacrifice.

          My personal reflection is still the same. Bring her home.

  18. “7 grams of marijuana” can mean a lot of things. If that’s hash or shatter, that’s a couple hundred bucks.

  19. PS – as far as Burkov is concerned, I would suspect that he either has money, or has connections who can provide him money for his defense. That would get him the best the U. S. justice system has to offer, which is certainly preferable to the best the Russian justice system has to offer.

  20. Drug smuggling is not possible without the help of the airport security department. The Philippines is also facing a big issue of Drugs.

  21. guess hasn’t seen Locked Up Abroad. leave it for the hotel cleaning lady next time …

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.