The WNBA star was arrested in Russia after airport officials said they found vape cartridges in her luggage.
In February, WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport after Russian officials claimed they found vape cartridges in her luggage. Since then, Griner has remained under Russian detention. But this week, as her legal battle continues, Griner’s lawyers say she was prescribed medical cannabis for “severe chronic pain.”
For several years, Griner has traveled to Russia to play basketball during the WNBA’s offseason. This is common among WNBA players, as the league salary cap prevents them from earning as much as their other pro-league counterparts in the U.S. Griner was arrested while entering Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Earlier this month, Griner pleaded guilty to possessing vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia. The charges can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Ahead of her trial, which will begin July 26, Griner’s defense is offering evidence to try to get the superstar a lighter sentence. Per CNN, Griner’s team submitted a letter from a U.S. medical center that had permitted Griner in 2020 to use medical cannabis to treat chronic pain. The team also submitted medical test results from 2018 and a medical report from 2020 in which a doctor confirmed Griner’s “severe chronic pain.”
Griner’s attorney Alexander Boykov told reporters, “Yesterday was quite an emotional day for [Griner],” per CNN. “She saw her general manager, her friend and teammate Evgeniya Belyakova for the first time in many months,” Boykov continued. “And now she just wants to take a rest.”
In May, the United States government classified Griner as being “wrongfully detained.” That means the government is supposed to take a much more active role in facilitating her release. But after months of perceived inaction, Griner wrote a letter to President Biden that was delivered earlier this month and asked the federal government to step up its efforts.
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” Griner wrote to Biden. “Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore.”
Along with medical documents, CNN reported that Griner’s lawyers submitted character support documents, including letters from UMMC Ekaterinburg and the Russian Basketball Federation. Per the outlet, Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, told media, “What became very clear is the tremendous amount of respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia where Ms. Griner has been playing basketball for seven years, not only for her professional achievements, but for her character and integrity.”