Brittney Griner won’t be returning to the WNBA, or the United States
The Russian Court has denied the appeal of Brittney Griner, convicted in August of drug trafficking. Griner, a WNBA star and the all-time leader in NCAA (basketball) blocks among men and women, will serve 9 years in a penal colony for bringing two, near-empty CBD vape cartridges into Russia.
The cannabis legalization debate has been much discussed in US politics during 2022. With President Joe Biden recently pardoning federal convictions for cannabis possession, the status of international detainees for cannabis crimes has been brought into the spotlight (once again). While this sweeping federal pardon is a step in the right direction, it does not help Griner.
International diplomacy is a tricky topic, especially between countries with differing views on crime and punishment. Originally, the US had proposed a prisoner exchange of Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan for Russian Viktor Bout, a convicted arms trafficker. Many believed that this offer was not in the best interest of the people, however the offer was still made – and rejected by the Russian authorities.
While a prisoner exchange was never accepted, President Biden and his office are keeping these detainees “front of mind”, says White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
It remains to be seen if the US government will propose a different prisoner swap, or explore other political avenues to free Griner and Whelan. For now, Griner and Whelan will continue to be detained within the boarders of Russia.