This week, the Biden administration made an offer to Russian authorities to bring home Brittney Griner, a WNBA basketball player from Houston facing a trial on drug charges in Russia. As part of the deal, Russia would release Griner and Whelan in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms trafficker and war criminal, currently imprisoned in the U.S. Bout was sentenced in 2012 after he was caught agreeing to sell millions of dollars in weapons to a Colombian terrorist group.
Griner has been held in a Russian prison since February after customs officials found two cannabis vape cartridges in her baggage. A doctor had prescribed the cannabis oil to her for pain and inflammation from career-related injuries.
Griner does not deserve to be in jail and hopefully she is returned to the United States post haste. That being said, however, the administration's concern over her detainment — and their willingness to release a war criminal — rings hollow given their track record on marijuana and the thousands of people they currently have locked in cages over marijuana possession.
In spite of the fact that weed is legal in some form in over half the country, the drug warrior predator class still viciously enforces the war on marijuana, ruining and ending lives from coast to coast in the process. Allen Russell, a 39-year-old man from Mississippi is a recent example of the state ruining lives in their enforcement of marijuana prohibition.
Russell was caught with a little over 1 ounce of marijuana in the state of Mississippi. And, despite the fact that the state just legalized medical marijuana in November of 2020, "possession of between 30 and 250 grams is a felony punishable by a maximum of 3 years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $3,000."
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While three years for having a tiny bit of a plant is certainly excessive, what happened to Russell moves beyond excessive into the realm of cruel and unusual. In 2019, Russell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole because he had a little bit of a plant which happens to be available over the counter in a dozens states.
Because Russell had two prior run-ins with the law, once in 2004 and once in 2014, the marijuana conviction put him away for life. In May of this year, the Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld his life sentence.
Russell's case is not isolated and his possession of cannabis is no different than Griner's — so why is the president not negotiating his release? Griner doesn't face spending the rest of her life in prison either — even if she is given the maximum sentence.
If this administration was morally consistent, as they negotiated Griner's release, they would also be freeing every single person in the country right now who is rotting in a cage for possessing a plant. Of course, this will not happen and the negotiations of prisoner release are simply political posturing and signaling due to the current war in Ukraine.
It is politically convenient for the Biden administration to bring attention to Griner's detainment in Russia to make Russia look bad. And the fact that they are silent on the tens of thousands of other folks currently incarcerated for the same thing domestically, proves this notion.
Griner should be freed immediately and so should ever other person on the planet who has lost their freedom for possessing this incredible plant. Anyone who does not advocate both of these positions is a virtue signaling hypocrite using Griner to score political points — a shameful concept indeed.