The verdict against WNBA star Brittney Griner convicted last Thursday in Russia for drug possession has become an international disgrace. Griner, 31, was arraigned in Moscow where she has played in her off-season since 2014 and sentenced to nine years behind bars when she was discovered at the Russian airport with cannabis oil for her vape cartridges. That Griner is legally, medically entitled to use cannabis in the United States is besides the point: Griner says she inadvertently packed the oil in a rush to the airport and, while convicted of "smuggling," certainly had no aspirations to provide anyone with cannabis except herself.
Russia is obviously engaged in a war with Ukraine that is effecting every tenant of society, from the supply chain to gas prices to the civilians and soldiers on both sides of the conflict paying a heavy price. That aside, athletes have been a long, vocal advocacy group for cannabis, and it's these professionals who know exactly how their body works and what they need to perform at the highest level. Professional athletes from LeBron James to Steph Curry to Megan Rapinoe have voiced their support for Griner and please watch this video to see the human toll of what the Russian verdict means to her teammates and friends.
"It's a human being and this is our real life friend. Our real life sister."
President Joe Biden has engaged Moscow and talks are currently underway regarding a prisoner swap. Biden has been vocal in his support. "American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates."
The story of Brittney Griner remains ongoing and painful and a reminder to us all in the cannabis community and beyond: the flower that we can sometimes take for granted remains polarizing and can be used, at any time, by any government, as a wedge to tear us apart. As a community, we must all stand beside Brittney Griner and follow, as the WNBA has done, Brittney's lead by making generous donations to charities, including LGBTQ youth centres and Covenant House, where Brittney had generously donated both her money and time. It's been almost half a year since Griner has been detained. To add your voice to the nearly 400,000 signatures demanding her release, please click here.
Cannabis is important to all of us. Human beings matter more.