Brittney Griner, an American professional basketball player, was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony for possession of a vaporizer cartridge containing extracted cannabis oil. Griner stated that it was prescribed to her by a US doctor to relieve pain from her many injuries. The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury player went to Russia to play basketball for a club in Russia’s Yekaterinburg during the off-season. The Executive Director of NORML, Erik Altieri, has released the following statement in regards to Griner’s sentence and cannabis laws today:
“Brittney Griner’s sentence of nine years in a penal colony for simple possession is a grotesque affront to the concept of justice and an unfortunate reminder of how draconic marijuana laws remain around the globe. However, it should also cause a serious level of reflection amongst our lawmakers and officials who feign disgust at the draconic punishment Griner is facing while turning a blind eye to the hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding American citizens we throw in jail for the same crime. The time for platitudes is over, the United States government needs to realize the current federal policy of marijuana prohibition and anti-marijuana laws in many states aren’t notably different [from] the stance held by Putin’s regime in Russia and take real action to end those failed policies.
Officials in the United States should do all they can to free Griner, but just as important, end the hypocrisy of acting repulsed by her sentencing while maintaining marijuana criminalization at home by bringing our domestic marijuana policies in line with our nation’s stated principles of liberty and justice.”
Griner was arrested at a time when relations between the Western world and Russia were strained, with President Vladimir Putin preparing to invade Ukraine. Her sentencing could now pave the way for a U.S.-Russia prisoner swap that would include the 31-year-old athlete and an imprisoned Russian who was once a prolific arms dealer.
Her lawyers made their case for leniency last week, arguing that she did not intend to break Russian law. Griner testified that she had packed in a hurry and did not know how the vape cartridges ended up in her baggage. She stated that law enforcement officials did not read her legal rights to her when she was arrested.Biden, under pressure to bring home Americans held in Russia, called on Russia to release Griner and said that his administration would continue to work towards that.