Weeks after it was disclosed that American professional basketball player Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia over alleged possession of cannabis vape cartridges, top federal officials and lawmakers are stepping up pressure for a release—even as tensions amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine continue to escalate and despite the fact that marijuana’s federally illegal status in the U.S. continues to incarcerate people over the plant.
The WNBA player was reportedly caught with cannabis oil at an airport in Moscow last month. She was detained and is currently being held in a pretrial detention facility. Last week her detention was extended two months, until May 19, as Russian prosecutors build a case against her. Only recently have U.S. officials started to apply pressure for release and return amid a growing chorus of criticism from lawmakers and advocates.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Friday that while “there’s only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point, let me just say more generally, whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia.”
Blinken also suggested that Russia is violating international law by not providing American officials with direct access to Griner.
“The Russians are required to give us that access. They have not—it has been denied,” he said. “So we are working very hard on getting it, on being able to get access to her, to hear directly from her how she’s doing, and to make sure we’re doing everything we can to see to it that her rights are being respected and upheld in the Russian system and in terms of international law.”
On Brittney Griner, @StateDeptSpox: “We’re deeply concerned about this case, in part because we’ve not yet been granted consular access…Russia has an obligation under the Vienna Convention…to allow our officials to see her. We’re going to continue to press for that.” #AMRstaff
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 17, 2022
A State Department spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal last week that U.S. officials are “closely engaged on this case and in frequent contact with Brittney Griner’s legal team.”
The circumstances behind Griner’s case are complicated for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Russia is facing nearly global condemnation as it carries out attacks in neighboring Ukraine, leaving countless civilians and fighters dead in its push to seize control of regions of …….