Laughing lawyer: WNBA star had medical certificate for cannabis

KHIMKI, Russia (AP) – A lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is jailed in Russia on drug charges on Friday, presented a court on Friday with a medical letter recommending that she use cannabis to treat pain.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and unique to the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February after customs officers said they found vape containers containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She risks up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.

Griner admitted in court last week that she was in possession of the containers, but said she had no criminal intent, claiming that the presence of the containers was due to hasty packing. In Russia’s legal system, admitting guilt does not automatically end a lawsuit.

Since the objection of guilt, her hearings have focused on personal and written testimonies of her good character and athletic prowess.

“The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis. The permit was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health,” said attorney Maria Blagovolina.

The defense also presented in Friday’s tests she underwent as part of an anti-doping check, which did not detect banned substances in her system.

The next hearing on Griner’s case was scheduled for July 26.

“In the hearings yesterday and today, what became very clear is the enormous amount of respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia, where Miss Griner has been playing basketball for seven years, not only for her professional performance, but for her character and integrity, ”said US Embassy Prosecutor Elizabeth Rood outside the courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, where the airport is located.

The director and team captain of UMMC Ektaerinburg, for whom Griner plays out of season, testified on her behalf Thursday.

US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they are doing everything they can to win her release, as well as other Americans whom the US considers “wrongly detained” by Russia, including former Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving his sentence Sixteen years. about an espionage.

However, Washington may have little influence over Moscow due to strong hostility over its military operation in Ukraine.

Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death”, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of conspiracy to kill American citizens and provide aid to a terrorist organization.

Russia has been agitating for Bout’s release for years. But the great discrepancy in the seriousness of their cases could make such a trade unpleasant for Washington. Others have suggested that Griner could be traded with Whelan, who is serving 16 years in Russia because of an espionage conviction that the United States has described as a setup.

The State Department’s designation of Griner as wrongfully detained moves her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, in fact the government’s chief negotiator for hostages. The classification has irritated Russia.

Asked about the possibility of Griner being exchanged for a Russian prisoner in the United States, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the senior Russian diplomat, noted that until her trial is over, “there are no formal or procedural reasons to talk about further steps. ”

Ryabkov warned that US criticism, including the description of Griner as unjustly detained and dismissive comments about the Russian legal system, “makes it difficult to engage in a detailed discussion of possible exchanges.”

Griner’s detention has been approved until Dec. 20, suggesting the trial could take months. Griner’s lawyers, however, said they expect it to be completed around the beginning of August.

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