The drug trial of American basketball star Brittney Griner in a Russian court focused Tuesday on testimony that cannabis, while illegal in Russia, is regarded in other countries as having legitimate medicinal use.
Griner acknowledged in court earlier this month that she was carrying vape canisters containing cannabis oil when she was arrested in February at a Moscow airport. But she contends she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage inadvertently because of hasty packing.
“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,” defense attorney Alexander Boykov said after the hearing.
Another member of Griner’s defense team previously submitted a U.S. doctor’s letter recommending the basketball player use medical cannabis to treat pain. During Tuesday’s court session, a Russian neuropsychologist testified about worldwide use of medicinal cannabis.
“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,” Boykov said.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use in parts of the U.S. had no bearing on what happens in Russia.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, pleaded guilty to drug possession charges at the second hearing of her trial, which started July 1. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.. The medical testimony and Griner’s admission that she had the canisters were aimed at earning her a mild sentence.
“We have a lot of mitigating factors. So we do hope that the court will take it into consideration. And the courts in Russia, in fact, have very broad discretion with regard to the sentence,” said Maria Blagovolina, another of Griner’s lawyers.
Five court sessions have taken place so far, some lasting only about an hour. After Tuesday’s session of about 90 minutes, the case was adjourned until Wednesday afternoon.
It is unclear how long the trial will last, but a court has authorized Griner’s detention until Dec. 20.
The slow-moving trial and Griner’s five months of detention have raised strong criticism among teammates and supporters in the United States, which has formally declared her to be “wrongfully detained,” a designation sharply rejected by Russian officials.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Jim Heintz on Aol via The Los Angeles Times