Brittney Griner is a 31-year-old woman, an American citizen and a professional athlete, having played basketball for the Baylor Lady Bears and enjoyed a 10-year career in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury. She won the WNBA Championship and is a 2-time WNBA scoring champion. During the WNBA offseason, she has played basketball in leagues in other parts of the world, including in China and Russia. Since 2019, she has been married to Cherelle Griner – more about her later.
In February 2022, Griner was found to be carrying an incredibly modest amount of hashish oil (less than 1.0 gram) and she was arrested by Russian customs as she entered the country. It has been reported that she had a prescription for medical cannabis in Arizona, but it is illegal in Russia. Griner’s trial began on July 1. She quickly pled guilty, apparently believing this would lead to leniency. She told the court on July 7, “There was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law.” On August 9, Griner was found guilty. She was sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined 1 million rubles. The U.S. State Department considers Griner to be “wrongfully detained.”
Cannabis is currently legal for recreational purposes in 19 states and approved for medical use in several more. If Griner had been arrested in Texas, still among the reddest and least tolerant states when it comes to this issue, the maximum she may have faced would have been 6 months in jail and a $2000 fine. Her detainment and punishment are comical, or would be if they were not so egregious. So which version of events do we believe? And does it matter? Let’s suppose Griner had no cannabis in her possession, or perhaps had a boatload of the stuff and was eager to distribute. She could be completely innocent or be a criminal mastermind, unworthy of redemption. The likely reality is that she made a very small mistake and she’s now, in the words of Cherelle Griner, a “political pawn.” Simply put, she is leverage. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and President Joe Biden have weighed in on this case. They are convinced that Griner is merely a celebrity who was in the wrong place and there have been ongoing negotiations for a prisoner exchange.
The problem with Russia, and with the Soviet Union before it, is that “truth” is meaningless. This is a country so infused with disinformation and propaganda that facts are impossible to discern. So, it must be the case that people all over the world (and certainly within Russia itself) view “the news” with a profound sense of dubiety. You have only to look at Vladimir Putin’s staggeringly high approval ratings after each of his “elections” to see just how deep the ruse goes. Russia doesn’t care about crime, doesn’t care about drug use or distribution and is widely believed to profit directly from the drug trade, as many countries do. This has never been about the scourge of drugs but rather about how to advance another agenda.
On October 6, Cherrelle Griner made an appearance on CBS This Morning and announced that she had actually spoken to Brittney for only the second time since her detainment began. She was reportedly, “not OK.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, also on October 6, President Joe Biden made the historic and unprecedented decision to pardon everyone convicted of simple marijuana possession at the federal level – in essence what Brittney Griner is now imprisoned for. The pardon impacts some 6500 individuals convicted between 1992 and 2021, plus thousands more convicted under D.C. law. While a step in the right direction, more can obviously be done, and Biden urged similar steps be taken at the state and local level. While the Griner case wasn’t specifically mentioned as part of this rollout, it does make her sham conviction look even more absurd.
Griner continues to sit in a Russian prison. Cherelle has been assured that Griner is currently in good condition and that securing her release is a “top priority” for the State Department. Negotiations are continuing and Russia is trying to determine who they want in a prisoner exchange. Unfortunately for Griner, being gay, black and female simply doesn’t have enough cache for Biden and Blinken to move heaven and earth.
Imagine what would have happened if Tom Brady had been arrested.