On Saturday, March 5, WNBA Star Brittney Griner was discovered having been detained by Russian authorities for what seemed to be the possession of vape cartridges containing hash oil. Nearly a month after her arrest, the status of her detention remains unknown. Ms. Griner plays in a EuroLeague during the WNBA’s offseason and has traveled there to play since 2014.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the EuroLeague suspended all Russian teams and US officials began calling players out of the country. Griner however, was unable to leave the country for reasons unknown. The Russian Federal Customs Service said in a press release that a sniffer dog had led authorities to search the carry-on luggage of Ms. Griner and had found vape cartridges containing hash oil. (BBC.com)
Brittney Griner is a previous number one pick back in 2013, 7-time all-star, and WNBA champion. She’s obviously a big deal in her sport. In addition to her performance, Griner is a groundbreaking athlete. At 22, Griner became one of few WNBA players to openly come out as gay in a time when the stigma around non-straight players wasn’t as well accepted. Soon after, she even becomes the first openly gay athlete to be endorsed by Nike.
Although she is this big-name athlete in her sport, none of this should even really matter because nobody deserves to be arrested for marijuana of all things. Sources have said that Griner could possibly face up to ten years in a Russian prison for a few vape cartridges. This obviously comes at a time when tensions with Russia are high and she could possibly be caught between Russia and the US’s opposing diplomatic forces.
If you haven’t seen a lot about the issue, it may be purposeful as WNBA legend Lisa Leslie recently went public letting us know that the WNBA and media have been instructed to keep quiet about Griner’s situation as a strategy in an effort to bring her home. At this moment, Griner’s situation has no indication of whether her status has improved or gotten worse and many are questioning this strategy.
Many have called on President Biden himself to negotiate with Russia to get Ms. Griner home. No public statement has yet been given out by Biden at this time but many believe this could be the best strategy going forward.
Cannabis is still federally illegal in both the US and Russia. This is despite the plant being either recreationally or medically legal in over 35 US states; Russian law supposedly sets possession of marijuana as only an administrative offense with no jail time for amounts less than 6 grams. This was actually recently changed as the previous amount was 20 grams back in 2006.
It is in our hopes that Brittney Griner will soon safely return to the US. We believe this is also a teachable lesson for the United States in that the criminalization of cannabis has become completely overblown throughout history and it’s time to enter a new era where no one will be imprisoned for this plant.