Russia’s politically motivated persecution of American basketball superstar Brittany Griner highlights multiple hypocrisies and myths that swirl around marijuana.
Russian authorities arrested Griner at a Moscow airport in mid-February 2022. Authorities charged her with smuggling hash oil, a liquid processed from the marijuana (cannabis) plant.
Griner has distinguished herself with two Olympic gold medals and eight WNBA All-Star honors. Griner said she went to Russia to contribute to her teammates there and satisfy her fans in Russia. She’s played for a Russian team since 2015, during the off-season of America’s WNBA.
Suspiciously, the detention of Griner occurred just days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The timing of Griner’s detention evidences a probable ulterior motive of Russian President Vladimir Putin to use the 6’9” star as a big pawn for power play leverage against the U.S. government.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden rightly bashed Russia for its BS on BG – as Griner is affectionately known.
But Biden’s criticism of Russia’s wrongful detention of BG reeks with hypocrisy because of Biden’s own BS refusal to end the U.S. government’s failed ‘War on Weed.’
Biden, for example, made a campaign promise as a presidential candidate in 2020 to support decriminalization and possible legalization of marijuana possession. Yet when the U.S. Congress approved legalization of marijuana in Spring 2022, President Biden did not publicly back that measure approved overwhelming by congressional members of his own political party.
Further, during the early weeks of the Biden Administration in 2021, young staff members where discharged or demoted after they acknowledged past use of marijuana inclusive of use of the substance in states where marijuana use is legal. Authorities in the Biden administration reneged on pledges not to retaliate against those who complied with administration requirements to reveal their past use of marijuana.
The decades of prohibition on pot by the federal government and states across America has produced wrongful detentions and other injustices with hauntingly similarities to the ordeal Griner endures in Russia after her arrest for possession of a minuscule amount of marijuana oil.
Russian authorities cite the U.S. federal government’s strident posture on pot to counter the U.S. government’s charge that Griner is wrongfully detained.
Russian President Putin’s support for the harsh mistreatment of Griner – now sentenced to nearly ten years in prison – radiates its own hypocrisy. Putin’s stance on marijuana contradicts his support of widespread ‘drug’ use by Russian athletes.
The Russian government’s blatant use of banned performance enhancing drugs for its athletes during Putin’s tenure led an international sports governing body to ban Russia from sports competition like the Olympics and the world soccer championships.
A widely circulated belief is that any use of marijuana is especially bad for the body. The championship caliber of Griner and other top athletes maligned for marijuana use cripples the myth that any marijuana use adversely impacts performance.
Embrace of myths about marijuana extend far beyond Biden and Putin.
In Delaware, where Biden lives, the Democratic governor in Spring 2022 vetoed legislation approved by that state’s legislature to legalize adult use of cannabis. That governor based his veto on the long-disproved myth that marijuana use triggers addiction to drugs like heroin. An extensive study on marijuana released by the New York Academy of Medicine way back in 1944 concluded that cannabis use does not lead to addiction or use of other drugs.
A doctor in Arizona prescribed the hash oil for Griner to help her with pain from playing basketball. Griner played for a WNBA team pro in Arizona, where medical marijuana use is legal
The big drug smuggling charge Russian authorities slapped Griner comes down to the weight of a raisin…yes, one single raisin – not even a handful of that dried fruit.
The evidence presented in Russian court against Griner was that airport personnel discovered two small hash oil vape cartridges in her luggage. The hash oil residue in those two cartridges had a combined total weight of less than one gram.
A single raisin weighs one gram as does a small page clip.
The Russian prosecutor at Griner’s trial deceitfully proclaimed Griner attempted to smuggle a “significant amount” of hash oil. Griner testified the oil was inadvertently in her luggage with no intent to smuggle or sell.
That prosecutor’s assertion of significant amount would have merit if Griner possessed cartridges that contained a minuscule amount Novichok . That is the incredibly deadly nerve agent Putin has employed to assassinate his critics inside and outside of Russia. There are 5,000 lethal doses in just one gram of Novichok.
The total combined weight of all hash oil residue in both of those cartridges in Griner’s luggage is far less of an amount of marijuana designated under Russian law as worthy of a major drug smuggling charge and a harsh prison term.
Although law in Russia is enforced arbitrarily, under the posted ‘letter’ of Russian law, possession of small amounts of pot and hash is considered an administrative offense not a major crime.
Posted penalties under Russian law for possession of six grams of pot (cannabis buds) or two grams of hash (cannabis concentrate) range from a fine to 15-days of detention.
While Russian law permitted an administrative disposition for Griner, she was subjected to the spectacle of criminal prosecution.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government claims Griner is not a hostage. She’s held simply for breaking Russian criminal law by bringing banned hash oil cartridges into that country.
But evidence indicates BG’s plight is more about superpower politics than about pot possession.
Griner, during her trial, denied any attempt to smuggle drugs into Russia. She told a Russian judge that she forgot to remove the cartridges in her rush to pack for her trip to Russia.
Pay inequities between WNBA and NBA players is the reason why Griner has played for that team in Russia. NBA mega-star LeBron James, for example, receives more than $500,000 per game. That amount is more than double the $200,000-plus Griner receives for an entire season in the WNBA.
During Griner’s trial, she plead guilty, hoping for leniency. A Russian judge mercilessly sentenced Griner to nearly 10-years in prison…for having hash oil weighing less than one raisin.
An overshadowed outrage in the Griner saga is fact that the United States, Russia, and most countries around the world outlaw cannabis as a dangerous drug.
This year a Russian court sentenced an America teacher to 14-years in prison for having medical marijuana. Last year an appellate court in the southern American state of Mississippi upheld a life sentence for a man convicted of possessing a minor amount a of marijuana.
Myths and hypocrisies cannot hide the historical fact that millions of people around the world have utilized cannabis for medicinal and euphoric purposes for centuries without ruination of human civilization.
Pot prohibition must end!