Brittney Griner had her fifth court hearing on Tuesday in Russia over drug charges, with her lawyers arguing that she had used medical marijuana to ease pain from sports injuries, like many other professional international athletes, reported Reuters.
WNBA star faces a possible jail sentence of up to 10 years as medical marijuana is illegal in Russia. Furthermore, this case has emphasized the tense relations between Russia and the U.S., especially during a time of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine. The Kremlin, however, said that the case has nothing to do with politics.
During the hearing, the defense brought a narcology expert who claimed that medical cannabis is widely used by professional athletes in states and countries where it is illegal, and often has fewer side effects than painkillers.
"With the prescription in place, Brittney may have used it for medical but not recreational purposes," said her lawyer Maria Blagovolina, partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin, and Partners law firm.
Griner was listening to the proceeding via a translator, wearing a grey sweatshirt with the words “Black Lives For Peace.” She will appear in court again on Wednesday, and might even be called upon to testify. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for August 2nd.
Legal Medical Marijuana User
During Griner's fourth court appearance on July 15, Blagovolina presented the Moscow court with a letter from a physician issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health recommending for the first time that the two-time Olympic gold medalist use cannabis to treat pain and chronic injury.
Although an Associated Press reporter based in Moscow told the Texas Standard that the court would not necessarily be swayed by an American MMJ recommendation, because "medical marijuana is a phenomenon that basically doesn’t exist in Russia. There are only very, very limited uses of cannabis for any medical purpose, and that’s usually reprocessed cannabis," said Jim Heintz, who added that "Russia basically is a zero-tolerance country on any sort of drug use."
Griner was detained at an airport near Moscow on Feb. 17 - one week before Russia's invasion of Ukraine - when authorities found a vape cartridge with cannabis oil in her luggage. She was entering the country to continue her seventh season with Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg women's team.
Increasing Domestic And Global Support For Griner
In addition to a recent bipartisan resolution calling for Griner’s immediate release, support from the professional sports community has increased exponentially in recent weeks with Megan Rapinoe and Steph Curry using their platforms to speak out.
At the recent ESPYS Stephen Curry, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike all delivered powerful messages advocating for Griner’s freedom.
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