Will Brittney Griner’s Cannabis Bust Become Putin’s Geopolitical Pawn?

Will Brittney Griner’s Cannabis Bust Become Putin’s Geopolitical Pawn?
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Brittney Griner, America’s famed female basketball player, won Olympic Gold in both Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020, and is a leading light of the Women’s National Basketball Association. But she made distinctly unenviable headlines, when she was arrested for cannabis in Russia last month. Russian authorities announced that there was an undetermined number of vape pens full of cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.The exact date of Griner’s arrest remains unclear, as does the number of cartridges found. This information wasn’t revealed in the March 5 press release from Russia’s Federal Customs Service announcing her detention. Alarmingly, her whereabouts also remain unknown. We do know that she’s accused of “smuggling a narcotic substance”—a charge that carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison.At an imposing 6-foot-9, the seven-time WNBA All-Star center’s freedom is hanging in the balance as Washington and Moscow face each other down over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As National Public Radio reports, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that an American was arrested in Russia, although he didn’t say Griner by name. However, Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, identified her publicly as the detainee, as did the WNBA and her team, the Phoenix Mercury. Tens of thousands of people have already signed the “Secure Brittney Griner’s Swift and Safe Return to the US” petition on Change.org. Journalist Tamryn Spruill, who covers women’s basketball, initiated the online signature campaign, writing: “Griner is a beloved global citizen who has used her platform since her entry into the WNBA to help others.” Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who played football at the same university where Griner played basketball, says he’s working with the State Department to secure her release. But he admitted to ESPN: “Obviously, it’s also happening in the context…

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