Comparison of Brittney Griner’s Sentence to Russian Drug Laws

A Russian court sentenced Brittney Griner, a U.S citizen and WNBA athlete to nine-and-a half years imprisonment on Thursday for smuggling marijuana oil into Russia in February.

This sentence seems to comply with a Russian penal code that outlines criminal penalties for those found guilty of violating Russia’s cannabis circulation laws. The code states that a person convicted of such a crime “may be sentenced to eight to twenty years of imprisonment, or even to a life sentence if the crime is committed on an especially large scale (for cannabis this means more than 10kg),” the international legal advisory service CMS observed in a recent article.

Russian law prohibits the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, according to an article titled “Cannabis Law and Legislation in Russia,” published by CMS in April 2021.

“Cannabis has been added to the List I of narcotics and psychoactive substances. CMS stated that the List I substances are under strict governmental supervision.

This statement has been supported by a copy of “Enumeration of Psychotropic Substances, Narcotic Drugs and their Precursors that Shall be Subject to Control In the Russian Federation”, published on the World Trade Organization’s site. “List I” of the document includes “Cannabis (marihuana) [sic].”

” Depending on the circumstances, violations of rules regarding cannabis circulation could be punished under various articles of Russian Criminal Code,” CMS states.

The legal advisory source provided details about the criminal penalties for people who were convicted under Russian cannabis circulation laws.

Non-authorised manufacturing, sale or delivery of narcotic or psychotropic substances, their analogues or plants containing narcotic or psychotropic substances (including cannabis) is punishable under Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Depending on various factors (such as the volume or weight of the cannabis produced or sold unlawfully; whether the crime was committed by an individual or an organised criminal group, and so forth), the convicted person may be sentenced to eight to twenty years of imprisonment, or even to a life sentence if the crime is committed on an especially large scale (for cannabis this means more than 10kg).

Garner was sentenced this week to 9.5 years imprisonment for “drug-smuggling”. This seems not to be a departure from Russia’s existing drug laws.

The Khimki City Court of Moscow found Griner guilty of “drug smuggling” on August 4, Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported.

“The court hereby finds the defendant guilty under Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal acquisition, storage, transportation or possession of narcotic drugs without intent to sell) and Article 229.1.2 of the Russian Criminal Code (significant drug smuggling),” Judge Anna Sotnikova said.

Russian authorities arrested Griner at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo — A.S. Pushkin international airport on February 17 after airport officials found cannabis oil vaporizing pen cartridges in her luggage. Griner was detained by police at the airport on suspicion that she attempted to smuggle drug into Russia. Griner pled guilty to attempting to smuggle drugs into Russia on July 7. Griner pled guilty to attempting to smuggle drugs into Russia on July 7.

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Griner, a professional basketball player and current U.S. Women’s National Basketball Association member (WNBA), is a former professional athlete. Griner won gold medals in U.S. women’s basketball at the 2014 and 2018 World Championships and at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. Griner was a member of the UMMC Ekaterinburg women’s basketball team immediately before her arrest.

Russian authorities registered nearly 180,000 drug trafficking offenses nationwide in 2021, “marking a decrease in the number of such offenses relative to the previous year,” Statista observed on March 1.

“After a sharp decrease in drug-related crimes in the country between 2000 and 2005, their amount grew over the following decade, measuring at 236.9 thousand in 2015,” according to the statistics portal.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other watchdog groups have criticized Russia’s strict penal code for being overly severe in its assignment of extended prison terms for convicted drug violations.

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