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Brittney Griner May Be Freed: Biden Offers a Prisoner Swap

Hannah Izer

By Hannah Izer

July 28, 2022

By Lorie Shaull – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80427439

The Biden Administration is proposing a prisoner swap for Americans

and Paul Whelan in exchange for Viktor Bout — a Russian convicted within the United States of arms dealing.

Last week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to expand the administration’s tools to deter hostage-taking and wrongful detention of U.S. nationals. This order is known as the “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained United States Nationals Home.” It will authorize the imposition of financial sanctions and visa bans on people involved in these hostage-takings.

WNBA player Griner has recently pled guilty to possessing 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in Russia. This amount of cannabis oil is lawful in Arizona, where she is licensed as a medical cannabis patient. She was

at the Moscow airport in February and charged with drug trafficking — this offense could land her in jail for 10 years in a Russian prison.

All cannabis products are strictly illegal in Russia, regardless of how much THC they contain.

Griner Claims This Was an Accident

Griner has stated that she is aware of Russia’s views on cannabis and did not intentionally bring cannabis into the country. She claims that it was accidental and did not intend to bring it with her. This is entirely believable from the small amount found on her. 

The Griner family, the U.S. government, and the WNBA have been working together to secure her release — though some say that the American government could do more for Brittney.

According to the newsletter,

, the U.S. government does consider Brittney a “wrongfully detained” person. However, the Russian government called this hypocritical since cannabis is not entirely legal in the United States.

The Biden Administration Has Made an Offer

The Biden Administration has offered a prisoner exchange of

, a Russian convicted of arms dealing in the U.S. back in 2011 and sentenced to 25 years in prison, for the safe return of Americans Griner and Whelan, both of whom are considered to be wrongfully detained in Russia, according to .

In a letter to the president, Griner wrote, “I’m terrified I might be here forever.” President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Brittney’s wife, Cherelle Griner. Biden said he is also working to free Whelan, who is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia.

Whelan was arrested in 2018 for acting as a spy for the United States. At the time of his arrest, it was reported that Whelan was visiting Russia to attend a wedding. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared on Wednesday that the U.S. presented a “substantial proposal” to Moscow several weeks ago. 

There was a press conference held on Wednesday where Blinken said President Biden was “directly involved” and signed off on the proposal; however, Blinken did not confirm that Bout was part of this deal.

The Russian Trial is Currently Underway

During a court appearance on Wednesday, Griner’s attorneys stated that the WNBA all-star was improperly arrested, was questioned without an attorney present, and did not read her rights under Russian law, which is supposed to occur within

, according to CNN.

On Tuesday, an expert testified in court that medical cannabis is used worldwide for pain management, according to an

report. Earlier in the month, Griner’s attorneys presented evidence that she has a physician’s recommendation in the U.S. for medical cannabis use — but this is not taken as a valid defense in Russia, where all cannabis use is prohibited.

pled guilty to drug possession on July 7, and she faces up to 10 years in prison. Russian officials have said that no potential prisoner swap would move forward before the end of her trial.

Hannah Izer

About The Author

Hannah Izer

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.