Brittney Griner ‘treated injuries with medical cannabis’, defence tells Russian court

·3 min read

Detained basketball star Brittney Griner used cannabis to help treat her injuries, a court in Russia has been told.

As proceedings continued against the 31-year-old, held by the Russian authorities since February, her lawyers said the cannabis oil found in her luggage had been for medical use, and not recreational.

“With the prescription in place, Brittney may have used it for medical but not recreational purposes,” said lawyer Maria Blagovolina.

Another lawyer, Alexander Boykov, told reporters after the hearing: “We are not arguing that Brittney took it here as a medicine. We are still saying that she involuntarily brought it here because she was in a rush.”

He added: “The Russian public has to know, and the Russian court in the first place has to know, that it was not used for recreational purposes in the United States. It was prescribed by a doctor.”

Earlier thus month, Griner pleaded guilty to a drugs charge but denied she had intentionally broken the law.

When she appeared in court to respond to a narcotic charge that carries a penalty of 10 years in jail she said the vapes containing cannabis oil that were found in her luggage were hers but she had taken them to Russia by mistake.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said. “I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare.”

Her lawyer, Ms Blagovolina said “she had committed this act through negligence, unintentionally”.

Griner, who has two Gold Olympic medals and plays for the Phoenix Mercury, has also appeared for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg, in the off-season, where many foreign athletes are attracted by the higher wages.

On Tuesday, a narcology expert summoned by the defence, testified that cannabis oil was widely used to treat athletes where it was legal, and often had fewer side effects than other painkillers.

Griner, who wore round-rimmed glasses and a black and grey sweatshirt with “Black Lives For Peace” on the back, listened to the proceedings via a translator.

Before taking a seat in the defendant’s cage, she held up a lined sheet of paper with pictures of her two best friends, a teammate and her wife Cherelle wearing her #42 Phoenix Mercury jersey, her WNBA team.

Griner, widely known as “BG” to basketball fans, will appear in court again on Wednesday, where she could be called upon to testify. A further hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug 2, her defence team said.

Elizabeth Rood, the US Embassy’s charge d’affaires, currently the nation’s most senior diplomat in Russia, attended Tuesday’s court session.

She said Griner “confirms that she is doing OK and as well as can be expected under these circumstances” she told reporters.

US officials have claimed the star has been wrongly detained and is being used by Vladimir Putin to seek leverage, as he continues his war in Ukraine. They have called for her to be released immediately.

The Russian authorities dismiss the US criticisms, with the Kremlin saying the case has nothing to do with politics.

Last week, foreign spokesperson Maria Zakharova said: “If a US citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian local laws, and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington.”

Additional reporting by agencies