It should come as no surprise to anyone that Women’s National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner was harshly punished Thursday by a Russian court on drug charges.
Griner was caught with less than a gram of cannabis oil in vape cartridges when she entered the country in February to play with the Russian Premier League. She said it was a mistake and she hadn’t realized the substance was in her luggage.
Cannabis oil is legal in much of the U.S. — Griner says she was prescribed the oil by a physician in Arizona — and many users swear by its medicinal properties. But it’s illegal in Russia.
Griner pleaded guilty last month and expressed contrition. If convicted she could have gotten 10 years in prison. But if she hoped her plea would garner leniency, she was wrong. The court sentenced Griner to 9 years.
The question now is just how long she will serve.
President Joe Biden released a statement Thursday condemning the sentence and vowing his administration “will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue” to bring her home. And that will probably happen. A prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer currently in a U.S. federal prison, seems the most likely avenue.
Some in this country see Griner as an entitled celebrity who carelessly broke the law in a foreign country and deserves what she got. They see no reason for her fame to bring any special consideration. Others see her a political pawn between Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and the U.S.
Let’s just say the two are not mutually exclusive.
The fact is she’s an American, headed to prison in a country that is not known to respect human rights. The U.S. government has at the very least an obligation to do what it can to see to her wellbeing while she is in Russian custody. Any American citizen incarcerated abroad has the right to expect that.
As to her freedom, that is indeed politics. And with all the publicity, no doubt the politics will play out between Putin and President Biden. Griner will be returned to the U.S. It’s just a matter of when and of what cost.
Print Headline: EDITORIAL/Politics oir privilege? The two are not mutually exclusive in Brittney Griner case