Brittney Griner’s Russian lawsuit considers medical use of cannabis

American basketball star Brittney Griner’s drug trial in a Russian court on Tuesday focused on testimony that cannabis, while illegal in Russia, is considered in other countries to have medical uses. legit.

Griner admitted she was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil when she was arrested in February at a Moscow airport, but she maintains that she had no criminal intent and the cartridges went missing. found in his luggage inadvertently due to hasty packing.

“We’re not saying Brittney took him here as medicine. We’re still saying she brought him here unintentionally because she was in a hurry,” defense attorney Alexander Boykov said after the court session. which a Russian neuropsychologist testified about the worldwide use of medicinal cannabis.

“The Russian public should know, and the Russian court in the first place should know, that it was not used for recreational purposes in the United States. It was prescribed by a doctor,” he said. .

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Griner’s medical testimony and admission that she had the cartridges is meant to give her a light sentence.

“We have a lot of mitigating factors. So we hope the court will take that into account. And the Russian courts actually have a very wide discretion when it comes to sentencing,” said Maria Blagovolina, another attorney for Griner. .

The trial began on July 1

The trial of the two-time Olympic gold medalist and standout Phoenix Mercury began on July 1, but only five sessions have been held, some lasting only about an hour.

The slow trial and Griner’s five-month detention drew sharp criticism from teammates and supporters in the United States, who officially declared her “wrongfully detained”, a designation strongly rejected by Russian officials.

Elizabeth Rood, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy, ​​attended Tuesday’s hearing. Griner “confirms that she is doing well and as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” she told reporters.

Griner was arrested in February amid heightened tensions between the United States and Moscow before Russia sent troops to Ukraine later that month. Some supporters claim she is being held in Russia as a pawn, possibly for a prisoner exchange. Last week, the famous American footballer Megan Rapinoe said “she is being held as a political prisoner, obviously”.

Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the US claim that Griner is being wrongfully detained and said Russian laws must be obeyed.

“If an American citizen has been caught smuggling drugs, and she doesn’t deny it, it should be commensurate with our local Russian laws, not those passed in San Francisco, New York and Washington,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

“If drugs are legalized in the United States, in a number of states, and it has been done for a long time and now the whole country is going to become addicted, that does not mean that all other countries are following the same path” , he added. she added.

Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for prominent Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is imprisoned in the United States, and that Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage, could also feature in an exchange.

U.S. officials have not commented on the prospects for such a trade. Russian officials said no trade could be discussed until the legal proceedings against Griner are concluded. It’s unclear how long the trial will last, but a court has authorized Griner’s detention until December 20.

Previous tryouts have included character testimonials from the manager and captain of the Russian team Griner played for in the offseason, as well as written testimonials, including a letter from a doctor saying he authorized her to use cannabis for the treatment of pain.