10 March 2022 |

Brittney Griner’s Arrest: Russian Cannabis Crimes

By Kaitlin Domangue

Cannabis might be legal in North America, however, cannabis remains illegal in the far majority of nations around the world today.

Cannabis in Russia

Russia is one region where cannabis remains illegal.

Russia has a zero tolerance policy for cannabis use of any kind. There is no medical or adult use program, and Vladimir Putin has been very clear on his stance. 

“[I am] strongly against the legalization of marijuana,” Putin is quoted as saying as early as 2013. 

Cannabis Crimes

In 2004, Russia made up to 20 grams of cannabis an administrative offense, which means you wouldn’t have to spend time in prison if you were caught with anything less than 20 grams.

Just two years later in 2006, RF Government Decree No. 231 was rolled back and the maximum limit before you are incarcerated dropped back down to six grams. 

Today, cannabis possession remains illegal in Russia. However, less than six grams won’t land you in jail, according to this law – instead you will be asked to pay a fine.

It’s worth noting that 50,400 people died from alcohol-related causes in Russia in 2020, a substance that is completely legal across Russia and in other countries where cannabis consumption is banned.

Support For Cannabis

It’s very difficult to say with any degree of certainty what percentage of the population in Russia actually support legalizing cannabis.

A 2018 study indicated that only 20% of Russians support legalizing cannabis, however, given the grip the Russian Government has on what is reported in the Russian media who know how accurate this figure is.

In contrast, over 68% of Americans support legalizing adult use cannabis, with an overwhelming 91% of Americanssupporting access to medical cannabis.

Medical Cannabis

It’s widely understood that medical cannabis is a stepping stone towards adults receiving much broader access to cannabis products.

That said, Russia shows no signs of legalizing medical cannabis anytime soon.

Overall, medical students in Russia have a negative view of medical cannabis, according to a 2020 poll, with 34% of the respondents stating they have no knowledge about cannabis use for medical patients. 

In contrast, 91.2% of American and Israeli nursing students in a 2021 survey say they would recommend cannabis to their patients if they were permitted to.

Consuming Cannabinoids

In Russia, all cannabinoids are illegal for athletes to use per Order No. 53177, issued by the Russian Ministry of Sports in 2018

Unfortunately for Brittney Griner, the WNBA player she was found in possession of three vape cartridges of hash oil in her bag at the Moscow airport last month, discovered by a canine unit and was promptly arrested.

There is almost no other (public) existing information about Griner’s current situation or her arrest, and it took weeks for this news to be released.

Looking Forward

While it’s clear that Brittney Griner broke the law in another nation, the unfortaute reality is that the time she will serve may have little to do with cannabis.

With rising tensions between Russia and the United States, Brittney Griner is at risk of becoming a pawn in this game of geopolitical chess as the doors of diplomacy have seemingly been shut down between Russia & the United States.

“Our diplomatic relationships with Russia are nonexistent at the moment,” said California Democratic Rep. John Garamendi to CNN earlier this week. 

Our Take

We may disagree with the approach Russia is taking to regulate cannabis products, however, we have to respect every nations ability to make such decisions.

That said, no human should have to pay the price for actions unrelated to the crimes they committed which is exactly what seems to be unfolding with Brittney Griner.

Regarding when the timeline when Russia will legalize cannabis, I personally wouldn’t be willing to hold my breath on such a decision being made anytime soon.