Griner Says She Was Denied Adequate Translation in Russian Drug Case

U.S. professional basketball star Brittney Griner, who has admitted arriving in Russia in February with vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage, testified at a court hearing Wednesday that a language interpreter provided to her translated only a fraction of what was being said as authorities arrested her. 

Griner, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs, said she was instructed by officials to sign documents at the Moscow airport without them providing an explanation for what she was acknowledging. 

In the sixth session of her slow-moving trial, Griner testified she had no criminal intent in the incident and still does not know how the cannabis oil for which she had a doctor’s recommendation ended up in her luggage. She explained she had packed in haste for the 13-hour flight from the U.S. to Russia, where she was planning to play during the offseason of the Women’s National Basketball Association. 

Griner said she was offered neither an explanation of her rights as she was detained nor access to lawyers to explain the documents she signed. 

It is unclear how long Griner’s trial will last, but a court has authorized her detention until December 20. 

During a Tuesday court session, a Russian neuropsychologist testified about worldwide use of medicinal cannabis, but the drug remains illegal in Russia. Griner’s lawyers have presented a U.S. doctor’s letter recommending that she use medical cannabis to treat pain, which she says she has sustained from her basketball career. 

She testified Wednesday that cannabis oil is widely used in the U.S. for medicinal purposes and has fewer negative effects than some other painkillers. 

But a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use in parts of the U.S. had no bearing on what happens in Russia. 

Griner’s U.S. supporters say she is being held as a political pawn, possibly for a prisoner swap. Russian officials say no exchange can be discussed until her legal proceedings are completed.   

Some material in this report came from the Associated Press.