As outrage mounts over WNBA star Brittney Griner’s prison sentence in Russia, harsh U.S. weed laws are also coming under scrutiny.
Even if Brittney Griner serves her full nine-year prison sentence, she’d be free from a Russian penal colony by 2031—but Allen Russell would still be sitting in a Mississippi prison for getting caught with less than two ounces of weed.
Russell, who’s also Black, was sentenced to life in prison for possession of 43 grams of cannabis in 2019. In June, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his sentence and ruled that it wasn’t “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Lawyers for Griner are appealing the 31-year-old WNBA star’s conviction for drug possession and smuggling after she was caught with less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport, near Moscow. The Russian government has also said it’s willing to discuss a prisoner swap.
But as outrage mounts over Griner’s imprisonment, many lawyers and anti-prohibition advocates point out that the U.S. regularly doles out harsh sentences to people, especially Black Americans, for weed crimes.
Despite a wave of U.S. states legalizing weed in recent years, it’s still a Schedule I substance (the same category as heroin) at the federal level, meaning the government believes it has a high potential for abuse and is not an accepted medical treatment. Hundreds of thousands of people are arrested for weed every year, and the American Civil Liberties Union found that Black people are nearly four times more likely to get arrested for possession than white people are, despite the two groups having similar rates of use.
“We have thousands of people who are sitting in jail, in prison today because of marijuana offenses, including low-level marijuana offenses. So it makes it really hard for us to stand on any legal ground or even moral high ground,” said Maritza Perez, director of federal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Manisha Krishnan on Vice
Published: August 16, 2022
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