Brittney Griner made headlines recently when she was arrested in Russia for possession of CBD oil. The event sent shockwaves through the basketball world and sparked an international debate about the legality of CBD oil products.
Griner, a star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, had traveled to Russia earlier this year to play in an exhibition game against a Russian team. Shortly after her arrival, customs agents searching her luggage found a small amount of CBD oil in her possession. Under Russian law, it is illegal to possess any product that contains marijuana or any related compounds, including CBD oil.
After being arrested and detained by local authorities, Griner spent two weeks in a Moscow prison before being released on bail pending her trial date. At her trial, she was found guilty and sentenced to 9 years in prison. The news caused an uproar throughout the basketball community, with many questioning why a professional athlete playing in a foreign country would be subject to such harsh punishment for something as seemingly trivial as possessing CBD oil.
Critics argued that Griner should have been aware of the laws regarding marijuana and its derivatives, but supporters pointed out that she likely did not know they were illegal due to the fact that they are not prohibited under U.S. federal law. They additionally argued that even if she was unaware of the laws, the punishment far exceeded what would be considered reasonable or appropriate given that there were no other aggravating factors present (e.g., intent to sell or distribute).
In an unexpected turn of events, Brittney Griner recently swapped places with notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the so-called “Minister of Death”, in a prisoner exchange. After being found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison for possession of CBD oil, Griner was granted clemency by the Russian government following negotiations between U.S. and Russian officials that resulted in her release from prison and Bout’s transfer to Moscow. This unprecedented event has raised numerous questions about international law and the implications it could have on athletes traveling abroad for professional sporting events or competitions.
The case received widespread media attention and prompted calls for reform within Russia’s criminal justice system. It also raised questions about whether athletes should be held responsible for their knowledge of local laws while traveling abroad and competing professionally overseas.