WNBA star Brittney Griner had doctor’s note for cannabis, lawyer says

KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — A lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner during her drug possession trial in Russia delivered to the court on Friday a letter from an American doctor recommending that she use medical cannabis to treat the pain.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star of the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after customs officials said they found vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.

READ MORE: WNBA star Brittney Griner back in Russian court after pleading guilty to cannabis

In court last week, Griner pleaded guilty and admitted owning the canisters, but said she had no criminal intent and said they were in her luggage because she had hastily packed her returned to Russia to play for the UMMC Yekaterinburg basketball team during the WNBA offseason.

In the Russian justice system, admitting guilt does not automatically end a trial. Since that plea, his hearings have focused on in-person and written testimony of his good character and athletic prowess.

Griner wore a Nirvana t-shirt as she sat inside the defendant’s cage, which is customary in Russian courtrooms. At one point, she held up a photo of other WNBA players with her name and the number 42 on their uniforms as a tribute during Sunday’s All-Star Game in Chicago.

“The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations on the use of medical cannabis,” said her lawyer, Maria Blagovolina. “The authorization was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health.”

Medical marijuana is not legal in Russia.

On Friday, the defense also submitted tests she underwent as part of doping control, which found no banned substances in her system.

The next hearing in the Griner case was scheduled for July 26.

US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they are doing everything they can to secure his release, along with those of other Americans whom the United States considers ‘wrongfully detained’ by Russia, including former Marine Paul Whelan who is serving a 16-year sentence. on a conviction for espionage.

However, Washington may have little influence over Moscow, due to strong animosity over its military operation in Ukraine.

“In the hearings yesterday and today, what became very clear was the enormous respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia, where Miss Griner has been playing basketball for seven years, not only for his professional achievements, but for his character and integrity,” said Elizabeth Rood, charge d’affaires at the United States Embassy, ​​outside the courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, where find the airport.

READ MORE: Brittney Griner allowed to communicate by email with her WNBA teammates

The manager and team captain of UMMC Ektaerinburg testified on her behalf Thursday.

Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed ‘the dealer of death’, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of conspiracy aimed at killing US citizens and aiding a terrorist. organization.

Russia has been agitating for years for Bout’s release. But the vast difference in the severity of their cases could make such a trade unpleasant for Washington. Others have suggested Griner could be swapped with Whelan, who is serving 16 years in Russia on an espionage conviction the United States has described as a setup.

The State Department’s designation of Griner as wrongfully detained puts his case under the supervision of its Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, making him the government’s chief hostage negotiator. The ranking irritated Russia.

Asked about the possibility of Griner being exchanged for a Russian imprisoned in the United States, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, a senior Russian diplomat, noted that until the end of his trial “there is no reason formal or procedural to talk about new measures”. ”

Ryabkov warned that the American criticisms, including the description of Griner as wrongfully detained and the dismissive comments about the Russian justice system, “make it difficult to engage in a detailed discussion of any possible exchange.”

Griner’s detention was authorized until December 20, suggesting the trial could last for months. Griner’s attorneys, however, have said they expect it to end around early August.


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