Cannabis advocates were celebrating the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner ahead of her return to the U.S. Friday after spending 10 months imprisoned in Russia for possession of cannabis vaping oil.
President Joe Biden called her incarceration unjustified.
Cannabis advocates released prepared statements celebrating Griner’s release and directing attention to the need for cannabis reform in the U.S.
U.S. Cannabis Council CEO Khadijah Tribble said Griner’s detention was an outrage and called on Congress to pass cannabis legislation. Lawmakers are working to include the SAFE Plus Banking measure, which would open up the American financial system to cannabis companies, in legislation before the end of the year.
“President Biden was correct when he said that no one should be jailed for using cannabis,” said Tribble, who added that cannabis reform measures would “bring some relief to all the other Americans who, like Griner, were unjustly harmed by cannabis prohibition.”
Gia Morón, president of Women Grow, said Griner’s case has amplified the plight of people jailed on cannabis-related charges. “We also hope this continues the forward movement toward freeing all those incarcerated for cannabis worldwide,” she said.
Ricky Williams, a former NFL running back and the founder of a cannabis company called Highsman, said tens of thousands of people continue to be locked up for cannabis infractions in the U.S.
“The greater the change we can create in the U.S. because of [Griner’s] imprisonment, the greater meaning it will give to her incarceration,” Williams said. “It’s time to apply pressure on our government to start expediting domestic reform.”
Griner’s release did spark criticism, however, from conservative political groups that opposed the release of Bout, who is known as the Merchant of Death. Rick Manning, president of the conservative nonprofit Americans for Limited Government, said the Biden administration would not have made the same effort had Griner not been famous.
“The Biden administration showed the world what privilege really looks like,” Manning said. “Every American knows that if you, your son or daughter were caught carrying drugs in Russia, tried, convicted and sentenced, you would be doing everything you could to survive the next decade in a Russian gulag.”
Griner, an all-star center with the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February and convicted on Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage as she arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.