A lawyer for the WNBA star at her drug possession trial in Russia gave the court a U.S. doctor’s letter recommending she use medical cannabis to treat pain. Medical marijuana is not legal in Russia. Cannabis and CBD oil is being endorsed by more and more professionals in all fields, but their use by athletes has catapulted the topic into mainstream discussion. Currently, the W Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who remains detained in Russia since February on drug smuggling charges, insists that she had no intent to break Russian law or indeed bring anything
Brittney Griner had a doctor’s note for cannabis use, her lawyer tells Russian court
WNBA star Brittney Griner speaks with her lawyers in the courtroom near Moscow on Friday.
KHIMKI, Russia — A lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner at her drug possession trial in Russia on Friday gave the court a U.S. doctor’s letter recommending she use medical cannabis to treat pain.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and standout for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after customs officials said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of transporting drugs.
Members of Brittney Griner’s Russian team defend her character, on and off the court
In court last week, Griner pleaded guilty and acknowledged possessing the canisters but said she had no criminal intent and said they were in her luggage because she packed hastily in her return to Russia to play for the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team during the WNBA’s offseason.
In Russia’s judicial system, admitting guilt doesn’t automatically end a trial. Since that plea, her court sessions have focused on in-person and written testimony to her good character and athletic prowess.
Griner wore a Nirvana T-shirt as she sat inside the defendant’s cage that is customary in Russian courtrooms. At one point, she held up a photo of fellow WNBA players wearing her name and No. 42 on their uniforms in tribute during part of Sunday’s All-Star Game in Chicago.
“The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis,” said her lawyer, Maria Blagovolina. “The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health.”
Medical marijuana is not legal in Russia.
The defense on Friday also submitted tests she underwent as part of an anti-doping check, which didn’t detect any prohibited substances in her system.
The next hearing of Griner’s case was scheduled for July 26.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they are doing all they could to win her release, as well as that of other Americans the U.S. considers “wrongly detained” by Russia, including former Marine Paul Whelan who is serving 16 years on an espionage conviction.
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Washington may have little leverage with Moscow, though, because of strong animosity over its military operation in Ukraine.
“In the hearings yesterday and today what became very clear is the tremendous amount of 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 her professional achievements but for her character and integrity,” U.S. Embassy charge d’affaires Elizabeth Rood said outside the courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, where the airport is located.
The director and team captain of UMMC Ektaerinburg testified on her behalf on Thursday.
Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. after being convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy in the seriousness of their cases could make such a trade unpalatable to Washington. Others have suggested that Griner could be traded along with Whelan, who is serving 16 years in Russia on an espionage conviction that the U.S. has described as a setup.
The State Department’s designation of Griner as wrongfully detained moves her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator. The classification has irritated Russia.
As calls grow to free Brittney Griner, Biden says he’s spoken with her wife
Asked about the possibility of Griner being swapped for a Russian jailed in the U.S., Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the senior Russian diplomat, has noted that until her trial is over “there are no formal or procedural reasons to talk about any further steps.”
Ryabkov warned that U.S. criticism, including the description of Griner as wrongfully detained and dismissive comments about the Russian judicial system, “makes it difficult to engage in detailed discussion of any possible exchanges.”
Griner’s detention has been authorized through Dec. 20, suggesting the trial could last months. Griner’s lawyers, however, said they expect it to conclude around the beginning of August.
Why do Brittney Griner and other athletes use cannabis to treat injuries?
C annabis and CBD oil is being endorsed by more and more professionals in all fields, but their use by athletes has catapulted the topic into mainstream discussion.
Currently, the WNBA’s Brittney Griner is stuck in Russia, facing a court appearance for cannabis charges.
She reportedly had vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage and this is why she is currently in custody in Russia.
Why does Brittney Griner take medical cannabis?
When testifying in her trial in Russia, Griner said how it had helped her recover from an injury hell.
“There are injuries that I’ve had over the long career of basketball, from my spine to no cartilage in my knee, and I was in a wheelchair for four months,” she said.
“I broke my ankle and I also sprained my knee really bad. So, I was wheelchair-bound.
“The benefits from medical cannabis definitely outweigh the painkillers that they prescribe.
“The painkillers have really bad side effects. With medical cannabis, there are honestly no side effects that harm you.”
CBD oil’s anti-inflammatory properties help athletes ease the pain from injuries or day-to-day training.
Many have credited it to helping them get over chronic pain from recurring injuries, and it has neuroprotective qualities that defend the nervous system against both short-term and long-term damage.
What have other athletes said about using medical cannabis?
While there’s still research going into its long-term effects, athletes have pointed out the mental health problems with some painkillers.
Meanwhile, the NBA stopped testing for medical cannabis in 2020, while the NFL, MLB and NHL all allow its use with various limitations in place.
“85 percent of the players in the NBA smoke or use some type of cannabis” Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson told GQ in October 2021.
“It’s a safe and alternative way to deal with s**t.
“Yes, we are supermen. We do make a lot of money, but we have a lot of stress and s**t on our plate constantly.”
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Nets‘ Kevin Durant has partnered with a tech company Weedmaps, which directs users to their closest marijuana dispensaries.
However, he wouldn’t comment on whether he used the substances.
“I think it’s far past time to address the stigmas around cannabis that still exist in the sports world as well as globally,” Durant told ESPN.
In England, various cases of extreme epilepsy are treatable by CBD and this has brought it into the public spotlight and forced rules to be relaxed about its use in everyday life.
Brittney Griner: I don’t understand how cannabis oil ended up in my bags
B rittney Griner, the WNBA star who remains detained in Russia since February on drug smuggling charges, insists that she had no intent to break Russian law or indeed bring anything into the country.
The basketball player’s legal team are hoping for leniency from the Russian legal system, arguing that Griner was still recovering from COVID-19 and “stress packing” ahead of going to Russia.
Griner herself says she did not expect to see the cannabis oil found in her luggage and had not intended to pack it, saying it ended up in there by accident.
“I still don’t understand to this day how they ended up in my bags,” Griner said at a hearing in Khimki.
“I didn’t have any intent to use or keep in my possession any substance that is prohibited in Russia.
“With them being accidentally in my bags, I take responsibility, but I did not intend to smuggle or plan to smuggle anything into Russia.”
As part of her defence, Griner and her legal team are also focussing on how much she enjoys going to Russia and how she considers it her second home.
She also claims she had been advised against travelling to Russia in the US, but she wanted to uphold her commitment to her team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, who she has represented during the WNBA off-season since 2014.