WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for the last six months after forgetting to take CBD vape cartridges out of her luggage. While waiting for trade negotiations to make headway, her trial has advanced to sentencing. And her punishment, for the grand crime of vaping, currently stands at nine years in prison.
Many suspect that this intensely exaggerated response is not about her crime whatsoever, but rather to solidify her capture as a political bargaining chip. With this speculation on the real reason for her incarceration, folks are left to wonder: what will the true length of Griner’s detainment be?
If she really is the solely political prisoner that many suspect, her time is entirely undetermined.
Biden recently offered to turn over Russian “merchant of death” arms dealer Viktor Bout in return for Griner and ex-marine Paul Whelan. Putin had previously made a straight offer of exchanging Griner for Bout, but it seems those terms were unfavorable.
With this new harsh sentence for the basketball star, even more public pressure is being applied to the Biden administration to act swiftly and decisively to ensure her freedom. This ramping up in pressure serves as additional leverage for Russia to push for an even more favorable exchange.
This public focus on pushing for Griner’s release also has many turning an eye towards the United States’ own prisoners, many of whom are themselves detained on cannabis-related charges.
Some are pointing out the hypocrisy in the US government putting serious political power into freeing a high-profile citizen on these charges while continuing to incarcerate many Americans, even in parts of the country where cannabis has been legalized.
That dissonance aside, Griner’s nine-year sentence is too severe for many to allow–especially for a lesbian figure detained in the heinously queer-oppressive Russia.
In a direct statement from Joe Biden‘s office, the president addresses the harsh sentence as “one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”