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AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

As with the United States and most other countries in the world, Russian law prohibits importing illegal drugs, drug derivatives, and drug paraphernalia into the country.   That’s pretty much a constant no matter where you travel around the globe.  It’s the responsibility of everyone who travels internationally to make themselves aware of what the laws are of any country one visits. Particularly when it comes to drug laws.


In my extensive international travels I have always been careful to ensure that all of my prescription medications are transported in the original orange pill bottles, with labels that are provided by a licensed pharmacy. I also carry a copy of the physician’s prescription for each medication just in case.  A practice that has served me well since I’ve never been arrested for transporting drugs illegally.  Especially important in the strict Muslim countries I have visited.

In addition to those precautions, in preparation for an upcoming trip I will visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in the country I’m traveling to for all important information on the local laws regarding bringing personal medications, to make sure that all of my prescribed medicines are in fact allowed to be brought into the country. This is particularly important when dealing with legal (in the U.S.) medical marijuana and its derivatives.  What might be acceptable in the U.S. may not be in other countries.

Every year, and throughout history, some Americans have run afoul of drug laws in foreign nations. Either knowingly or not, Americans have violated laws in other countries and have found themselves arrested, facing prosecution, followed by possible lengthy imprisonment in a foreign land.

And I can assure you that most foreign nations aren’t as concerned about modern penal philosophy as we are in America, when it comes to the incarceration of prisoners. Foreign prisons are generally filthy, unsanitary, unhealthy, and very dangerous places. Prisoners are packed into horrid conditions, living in squalor, fed poorly, and provided no medical care. Animalistic.  Many don’t survive their sentence.


Certainly the conditions that American WNBA basketball player Brittany Griner experienced during incarceration in Russia were not up to the same standards as here in the U.S.  Griner was fortunate that the Biden administration arranged for a prisoner exchange, and she didn’t have to complete the remaining part of the nine year sentence at the Russian labor camp she was being transferred to. Her life would have been very difficult to say the least.  The Hollywood movie ‘Midnight Express’ is a great example for people to watch if they want to see what a foreign prison is like.  That depiction alone should scare anyone.

Griner has been described in the news media and by Washington politicians as an “innocent” victim of Vladimir Putin. While the crime she pled guilty to in Russian court wouldn’t even merit a prosecution in this country, under Russian law Griner did violate their statutes on the importation of drugs. And just as it is here in the U.S., importing drugs is viewed as a serious offense by the Russians. So is Griner “innocent”? Or just stupid? Unfortunately ignorance of the law is not a defense here in America, as well as in Russia and every other country on the planet.

The lesson to be learned is that if you travel either domestically here in the U.S. from state to state, or especially internationally, make sure you take the time to familiarize yourself with the local laws.  Recently a British archeologist was arrested and is facing ten years in an Iraqi prison (which are among the worst in the world), for trying to take a few pieces of ancient pottery shards with him when he left Iraq.   They were discovered in his luggage as he was clearing through Iraqi Customs at the airport.  He had even been given those pottery shards as “worthless” by his Iraqi archeologist host.  But he’s still facing jail time for trying to remove Iraqi historical artifacts.


Marijuana isn’t legal in every state in this country, and it darn sure isn’t in foreign countries.  If you don’t take the time to study up on what you can and cannot do when traveling to foreign nations you may well find yourself in the custody of the host nation’s police, and facing a long and uncomfortable stay in a foreign prison.

It’s YOUR responsibility to travel safely.  Then maybe America won’t have to trade a violent arms dealer with American blood on his hands in order to save your rear end.

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