An American doctor’s letter recommending Brittney Griner use medical cannabis to relieve pain was presented to the court by her attorney today during her drug possession trial in Russia.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star player for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after customs agents allegedly discovered cannabis oil-infused vape cartridges in her luggage.
She may spend up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of the drug transportation allegations.
Griner admitted having the canisters in court last week, entered a guilty plea, and claimed she did not intend to commit a crime. She claimed the canisters were in her luggage because she had hurriedly packed for her trip back to Russia to play basketball for the UMMC Ekaterinburg team during the WNBA offseason.
In the Russian legal system, admitting guilt does not end a case immediately. Since she entered her plea, most of her court appearances have been written and oral testimonials of her moral integrity and athletic abilities.
Maria Blagovolina, Brittney’s attorney, stated that “the attending physician made instructions for the use of medical cannabis.” The Arizona Department of Health “issued the approval” on its behalf.
The defense also provided the tests she received as part of an anti-doping check on Friday; these tests revealed no evidence of illegal substances in her system.
The matter of Griner’s next hearing was set for July 26.
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken of the United States have stated that they are doing everything in their power to secure her release as well as the releases of other Americans who are believed to have been “wrongfully detained” by Russia, such as former Marine Paul Whelan, who is currently serving a 16-year sentence for espionage.
The intense hostility between Washington and Moscow over the latter’s military intervention in Ukraine may limit Washington’s influence with Moscow.
Outside the courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, where the airport is located, U.S. Embassy charge d’affaires Elizabeth Rood said, “What became very clear in the hearings yesterday and today is the tremendous amount of respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia where Miss Griner has been playing basketball for seven years, not only for her professional achievements but for her character and integrity.”
On Thursday, the director and team leader of UMMC Ekaterinburg gave a deposition in her favor.
According to Russian media, Griner could be exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as “the Merchant of Death,” who is currently serving a 25-year term in the United States after being found guilty of conspiring to kill Americans and lending support to a terrorist group.
For years, Russia has pushed for Bout’s release. However, the stark disparity in the gravity of their cases may make such a transaction intolerable to Washington. Others have suggested trading Griner for Whelan, who is now serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on an espionage conviction that the United States has called a setup.
Griner’s situation is now under the control of the government’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, who is essentially the government’s top hostage negotiator after the State Department declared her to have been illegally arrested. Russia has taken issue with the categorization.
When asked about the idea of exchanging Griner for a Russian imprisoned in the United States, senior Russian diplomat Sergei Ryabkov responded that there are “no formal or procedural reasons to talk about any further measures” until her trial is complete.
Ryabkov emphasized that it is “impossible to engage in a thorough discussion of any conceivable exchanges” due to U.S. criticism, which includes the assertion that Griner was unjustly jailed and contemptuous remarks about the Russian justice system.
According to the authorization for Griner’s imprisonment through December 20, the trial may take many months. However, Griner’s attorneys anticipate a resolution starting in August.