With the return of Brittney Griner to the United States, many amongst the population are wondering when the United States will legalize marijuana. With all the effort and time put into freeing a citizen in a foreign country, is it hypocritical for the United States to lock up our own citizens for the same crimes? Many are calling on the Biden administration to federally legalize the drug, given his actions to bring the WNBA player home.
News broke early last week of the prisoner swap to free Griner from a Russian prison. The Biden administration brokered the deal and traded notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout for the WNBA star. Griner was locked up for roughly 10 months with a total sentence of 9 years. Griner was arrested and charged with possession of cannabis oil, a substance that is still illegal in Russia, but somewhat legal in the states.
Many significant figures in the cannabis world are speaking about the incident. Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the imprisonment of Griner was a, “grotesque affront to the concept of justice,” Altieri also said this in an interview, “However, it should also cause a serious level of reflection amongst our lawmakers considering that a large number of states still inflict similar penalties for marijuana possession on our own soil, and the current federal policy of marijuana prohibition isn’t notably different than the stance held by [President Vladimir] Putin’s regime in Russia,”
Mass incarceration for marijuana related crimes is a huge issue in the United States. Many people are locked up for simple marijuana crimes. To make this problem worse, marijuana is still federally illegal, further complicating the issue for the states who vote to legalize. David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, had this to say about the issue, “Brittney’s crime was no crime at all, and just like she did not deserve to spend one day in a horrible Russian jail, neither do the hundreds of thousands of mostly Black people arrested and incarcerated for marijuana in America deserve to spend one day in a terrible U.S. jail,”
We are unsure whether this move to free Griner is an opening step for Biden to federally legalize marijuana. More on this story to come.
Read the unedited article from Newsweek Here.