Griner’s arrest & conviction on drug charges justified

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Union Tribune.

On Feb. 17, Brittney Griner was detained in Russia for allegedly carrying marijuana concentrate in her luggage. Russian officials later discovered marijuana vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is strictly prohibited in Russia. As a result, Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.

Griner – who has played in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League for the past seven seasons – should have been well aware of the fact that it would be illegal to carry marijuana into Russia. Yet knowing all this, Griner was caught in Russia carrying narcotics and got herself arrested and jailed. It is for these reasons that Griner should spend time in prison in Russia, but not the full nine years that she has been sentenced with. According to the New York Times, Griner was charged with large-scale transportation of drugs which can carry up to 10 years in prison.

However, accidentally carrying a few vape cartridges containing hashish oil should not be considered large-scale drug transportation. Amidst all this trouble surrounding Griner, the United States and Russia began prisoner trade negotiations.

The United States and Russia started making prisoner swap negotiations with Russia requesting Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, for Brittney Griner and former American Marine Paul Whelan.

However, it does not make much sense that Griner is a part of the trade considering the other individuals involved are either more involved diplomatically or fictitiously charged and Griner is none of those. Russia wants Bout back due to his link with military intelligence, according to the Washington Post, and the United States wants Whelan back because he was fictitiously charged with espionage, according to the U.S. State Department. Griner should have been aware of the drug laws in Russia, considering she has been playing there for the past seven seasons.

According to ABC, 90 percent of the 67 Americans who are detained in foreign countries, including Russia, are detained on false charges. Just because Griner is a WNBA basketball player does not mean she should have more value than other Americans detained in Russia. According to PBS, Marc Fogel “who has lived and taught in Russia for nearly a decade” was sentenced to 14 years hard labor by Russian officials in a case similar to Griner’s. Fogel was arrested in August of 2021 by Russian airport authorities who found vape cartridges and cannabis buds in his luggage.

Despite having a case to Griner’s, Fogel’s case received little to no attention until Griner was arrested. Even after Fogel’s arrest, he is not in the proposed trade. Just because she is a famous basketball star doesn’t mean she should get priority in prisoner exchanges, especially when there are others who have experienced similar sentences that have also been deemed unfair by the government.

According to People magazine, Griner stated that she had no intention of breaking the law, but to the Russian authorities, it does not matter. Even though it is unfortunate for Griner, she made the choice to fly back to Russia and she should have been more careful with what she was bringing in her luggage. Therefore, even though a nine-year sentence is far too excessive, she deserves to spend time in a Russian jail for her crime.

On top of that, the U.S. must not prioritize her in prisoner exchanges and should instead focus on other Americans who have been wrongfully detained in Russia for longer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Falcon Accolades: Summer Edition
Next post Falcon Faiths