A group of marijuana activists demanding for Britney Griner’s release held a protest outside the Russian embassy in D.C., sparking up and installing a massive, inflatable joint in front of the building on Thursday.
The demonstration, organized by DC Marijuana Justice, was planned two days after a Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal of her nine-year sentence for possessing cartridges containing hashish oil at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February.
She was convicted in August, but her arrest eight-months ago came just two days before the Kremlin declared war on Ukraine. At the time, the two-time Olympic gold medalist was returning to play for a Russian team during the WNBA’s offseason.
‘Just as it’s unacceptable for Americans to sit behind bars for simple possession of cannabis, it’s absolutely unacceptable for an American sitting in a Russian Gulag,’ longtime cannabis activist and leader of DC Marijuana Justice Adam Eidinger told The Washington Post.
‘We feel compelled to protest the Russian Federation, and President Putin, who’s clearly using an American citizen as a pawn in his war against Ukraine.’
Cannabis advocates deploy green smoke and a fake inflatable joint outside the Russian Embassy in DC to demand the release of American basketball star Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia since February for cannabis possession
Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DC Marijuana Justice, organized the protest at around 4.20 p.m. on Thursday in front of security standing in front of the Russian Federation’s embassy
Griner admitted to having the cartridges in her luggage but testified in court that she packed them inadvertently in her haste to make her flight and had no criminal intent
The two-time Olympian is afraid of being forgotten by the US and that she is at her ‘absolute weakest moment in life right now,’ according to her spouse
On Wednesday, Russian state officials kept the door open for talks on a possible swap involving the imprisoned WNBA star but reiterated that any such discussions must be kept strictly confidential.
Asked if Griner could be freed as part of a prisoners swap with Washington, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters that ‘we always say that any contacts about possible exchanges can only be conducted in silence under a tight lid on any information.’
President Joe Biden told reporters that his administration is in ‘constant contact’ with Russian authorities on the WNBA star and other Americans who are detained there. While there has not been progress on bringing her back to the U.S., Biden reiterated, ‘We’re not stopping.’
At her trial, Griner admitted to having the canisters in her luggage but testified she packed them inadvertently in her haste to make her flight and had no criminal intent.
Her defense team presented written statements saying she had been prescribed cannabis to treat chronic pain.
Before her conviction, the U.S. State Department declared Griner to be ‘wrongfully detained’ — a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.
Griner appears on a screen via video link from the detention centre during this week’s court hearing to consider an appeal against her prison sentence, which was eventually rejected
President Joe Biden has told reporters that his administration is in ‘constant contact’ with their Russian counterparts to bring the WNBA star home
WNBA Player Brittney Griner with her wife, Cherelle Griner
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement that Biden ‘is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home.’
In July, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an unusual step that Washington had made a ‘substantial proposal’ to Moscow get Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
He didn’t elaborate, but most U.S. outlets have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. and once earned the nickname the ‘merchant of death.’
Cherelle Griner, the athlete’s wife, told ‘CBS Mornings’ ahead of this week’s appeal that the Phoenix Mercury eight-time all-star is afraid of being forgotten by the US and that she is at her ‘absolute weakest moment in life right now.’
‘She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,’ Cherelle Griner said.
The US Government has publicly admitted to have involved convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who faces a 25-year sentence, in a swap for Griner and Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage in Russia
She added that the 2014 WNBA champion told her over a phone call that she felt ‘like my life just doesn’t matter.’
‘Like, y’all don’t see the need to get me back home? Am I just nothing?’ Cherelle Griner quoted her wife as saying. It wasn’t clear when the call took place.
But Cherelle Griner said after that hearing, her wife could potentially be moved to a labor camp elsewhere in Russia.
‘My brain can’t even fathom it,’ she said in the CBS interview.