Brittney Griner – Marijuana is legal in many parts of the U.S. but NOT in Russia. Why this WNBA player is going to spend the next 5-10 years in a Russia prison…unless the U.S. government cuts a deal ASAP
Seven-time WNBA all-star, Brittney Griner, remains charged with “large scale of the transportation of drugs, in Russia. The details of how much Griner was allegedly carrying remain unknown but this offense in that country, carries with it a ten (10) year prison sentence. Griner has remained in custody in Russia since February 17th, when she was stopped at the airport with the alleged substance. The alleged cannabis (marijuana) vape cartridges were found in her luggage by custom officials at the airport. It now appears that Griner will stand trial on these allegations later this month. She does have an Russian criminal defense lawyer and was in Russia playing basketball for UMMC Ekaterinburg.
The Russian Criminal Justice System
The Russian, like the U.S. system, grants the presumption of innocence, so Russian prosecutors or authorities would have to prove their case at trial. Unlike the US justice, the Russian system doesn’t require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While Griner can possibly negotiate a plea, the Russian legal system requires defendants to serve one-half (5 years minimum) to two-thirds of the maximum sentence of ten (10) years. Griner was stopped at the airport and even if Russian has some type of illegal search and seizure right (probably not), even the U.S. the right against illegal search and seizure doesn’t apply to Customs searches at the airport. In many illegal narcotic cases, a motion to Suppress evidence based on a person’s constitutional right against illegal search and seizure.
Marijuana and Drugs in Russia
Russia has some of the harshest drug laws in the world and imprisons more people per capita for drug crimes than the rest of Europe. In addition, marijuana remains illegal for recreational and medical purposes, unlike the U.S. States, where is has been widely decriminalized and in some cases legalized as in states like New Jersey.
Russia, however, unlike the United States, has a “zero” tolerance policy and law with regards to marijuana and all drugs. Most recently, Griner had a preliminary hearing, but no U.S. officials were present or even permitted to attend. Unlike U.S. proceedings, the preliminary hearing in Russia was considered a “closed administrative meeting” and U.S. Embassy staff was not allowed to attend.
While there is no indication of the exact amount that Griner had allegedly in possession at the time of her arrest, Russian law indicates that less than six (6) grams of marijuana is punishable by fifteen (15) days of detention. At this point, Griner has been in custody since February 17th, so it appears that the amount she allegedly had in her possession was well over that amount.
Six (6) grams or more of marijuana (cannabis) is considered a large amount and more than a hundred (100) grams is considered “and exceptional large amount”. Anything over six (6) grams in Russia can result in a long prison sentence. While anything less than six (6) grams is more or less a fine and a short-term jail sentence. Russia does not permit medical marijuana and it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon.
Can the U.S. make a deal?
It appears that Russian authorities would be open to the possibility of trading Griner for a Russian national currently incarcerated in the United States. This person, however, is Viktor Bout, and the U.S. government has yet to engage in these negotiations as Bout is a notorious convicted arms dealer. This type of negotiation is likely Griner’s only way out of this situation and it is unlikely that she has a strong defense
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