Biden must work to free Brittney Griner and reexamine US cannabis plan – New York Daily News
In February, WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner said she did what many of us have done at some point in our lives: she realized she had an upcoming trip she hadn’t packed for and threw a bag together , forgot everything that was in there.
Thousands of Americans can relate to the frustrating experience of having the TSA pull them aside to pull out a pocket knife or a small tube of lotion or something as harmless as if it were a nuclear warhead. The difference for Griner was that there was less than a gram of cannabis oil in some overlooked vape cartridges, and unfortunately for her, the finders weren’t TSA but Russian customs officials who promptly arrested her for illegal drug possession and smuggling.
Yesterday she pleaded guilty to an effectively coerced plea in a country with an acquittal rate of less than 1% in criminal courts. The dirty affair is now moving into the diplomatic arena, where the Biden administration must use whatever pressure it has to bring Griner home. The strain on relations stemming from the madman Putin’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine certainly makes this more difficult, although Putin’s own weakening economic position could prove a useful pressure point.
It’s worth noting that if it had been the TSA that found the cannabis, things would have been better but not entirely fine. While recreational marijuana is legal in New York, where Griner got his start, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance for federal use, and while the TSA doesn’t actively search for cannabis, it will refer it to law enforcement if found. This is an anachronistic stance made all the more puzzling given that Biden could unilaterally phase out marijuana, which a group of Democratic senators wisely implored him to do in a recent letter.
States across the country have understood that legalizing marijuana is overwhelmingly popular and morally right, a boon to public safety and racial justice. The Biden administration should use this as an opportunity for a joint message.