What is hashish oil and how did it land Brittney Griner in a Russian courtroom?

·3 min read

WNBA star Brittney Griner was on her way to Russia to play basketball when customs officials allegedly discovered contraband in her bag.

According to the Russians, Mr Griner allegedly packed hashish oil in her bag, likely in the form of a vape.

It was that discovery that led to her now five month detention in Russia. On Friday, Ms Griner appeared in Russian court for the first time and faced charges of smuggling less than a gram of hash oil inside of her luggage. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

What is hash oil?

Hashish — also known as hash — is a drug made by compressing the parts of a cannabis plant that contains the highest levels of THC. Hash is traditionally associated with Middle Eastern and and Mediterranean cultures, but has been used globally for decades.

Hash oil is, predictably, an "oil" version of hash. The term "oil" refers to the concentrated liquid that is formed when cannabinoids are extracted from the cannabis plant. Consumers usually smoke — or more recently vape — the liquid. Hash oil is available in cartridges and vapes, similar to THC pens and common nicotine vapes.

Is hash oil legal in the US or Russia?

In the US, hash and hash oil — like marijuana — are Schedule 1 drugs. It's still illegal to use and possess hash under federal law, and its legality varies state by state.

In Russia, cannabis is illegal. An individual possessing less than 6 grams of cannabis or two grams of hash can be fined or jailed for up to 15 days. Possessing any more than that becomes a more serious criminal offense.

Ms Griner was accused of having less than a gram.

“Being sufficiently aware that the movement of narcotic drugs is not allowed… no later than February 17, 2022 at an unspecified location under unspecified circumstances from an unidentified person [Ms Griner] bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” the prosecutor said during the trail, TASS reported.

What’s next for Ms Griner?

Her next hearing is 7 July.

In the mean time, Ms Griner's supporters have been asking the US State Department to intervene and secure her release.

Ms Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, told CNN this week that she's had to "push people" to ensure that the State Department's statements are congruent with its actions.

“It’s really, really difficult. This is not a situation where the rhetoric is matching the action,” she said. “I do have to unfortunately push people to make sure that the things they’re telling me is also matching their actions and so it’s been the hardest thing to balance because I can’t let up. It’s over 130 days and [Ms Griner] still not back.”

US officials have worried that Ms Griner's arrest is partially politically motivated, providing Russia with a bargaining chip at a time when it and the US are at odds over the war in Ukraine.

The Kremlin has roundly denied those allegations, emphasising that the nation was simply enforcing its narcotics laws.