American film student held in Russian jail for medical marijuana, officials say

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(MOSCOW) -- A 19 year-old film student from New York has spent at least a week in a Russian jail facing drug charges after she was arrested with medical marijuana while visiting Saint Petersburg with her mother.

Audrey Lorber, from Staten Island, was arrested as she tried to fly out of Pulkovo Airport when Russian border agents allegedly found about 19 grams of marijuana on her, according to a statement posted by St. Petersburg's Moskovsky district court.

Lorber had a prescription for the drug which she had brought with her from the U.S., according to investigators, but they considered the prescription to be not valid in Russia.

She was charged with drug possession and since then had been awaiting court hearings in a detention facility in St. Petersburg. Investigators said Lorber had pleaded guilty to the charges. It was unclear if she had a lawyer.

The court statement was made on Sept. 2 but it was not clear when Lorber was arrested. Lorber’s Instagram shows her travelling in Russia with her mother Rochelle from at least mid-July, including a visit to Moscow. Her last post was dated July 22, showing her and her mother laughing in the sunshine by St. Petersburg's Neva River.

Russia has harsh drug laws, which police enforce aggressively and carry long prison sentences. The offense that Lorber is charged with -- Article 228 of Russia’s criminal code -- is nicknamed “the people’s charge” because it is so frequently used to jail people.

The charge is also notorious for being used in fabricated drugs cases.

ABC News chronicled another American's 2-year jail odyssey in the Russian system on what he says were trumped-up drug charges.

And during the soccer World Cup last year Russian authorities reportedly allowed American and other foreign tourists to bring medical marijuana into Russia provided they could show a prescription. Marijuana is illegal in Russia, including for medical purposes and possession is aggressively prosecuted.

Lorber now studies at Pace University while also working at a restaurant, according to her Facebook profile.

Joey Guli, her boss at the Waterside Restaurant in Staten Island, told The New York Post that he had spoken to Lorber's mother about two weeks ago and that she was scrambling to try to free her daughter. Guli described Audrey as a “stellar employee.”

“She has a career ahead of her and wants to be in the movie industry,” he said.

“All my customers love her,” he told The New York Post.

The U.S. State Department told ABC News that it was “aware of reports of a U.S. citizen arrested in Russia” and is ready to provide appropriate consular services.

“Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment at this time,” the department said in a statement.

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