Russia upheld its sentence for Brittney Griner, here’s what happens next

Brittney Griner’s appeal of her nine-year prison sentence in Russia was denied. Griner has been convicted of possessing and smuggling cannabis oil.

WNBA star Brittney Griner’s appeal of her nine-year prison sentence for possessing and smuggling cannabis oil has been denied. This is the end of the road for Griner as far as individual judicial proceedings go, and there is no further recourse for Griner to reverse the court’s decision on her own.

Now, attention turns to the United States government and how far it is willing to go in what has become a highly politically-charged situation with the Kremlin.

A prisoner swap with Russia is technically still in play for Brittney Griner

In August, speculation was rampant that the United States could engage with the Kremlin’s request to release arms dealer Viktor Bout who is in custody in America. Bout, who is nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” was proposed in a swap for Griner as well as another American being held in Russian prison. That person is Paul Whelan, a former US Marine.

Bout has been called, “one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth,” by Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Neither President Joe Biden nor the White House have officially spoken on the possibility of a prisoner swap specifically but did mention a, “substantial proposal,” they made to Russia. With the appeal officially denied, government intervention is the last opportunity for Griner’s release.

Additional background on Brittney Griner’s arrest

Griner was taken into custody in February at a Russian airport when a vape cartridge containing cannabis oil was found in her luggage. Shortly thereafter, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict took off, which heightened the political nature around Griner as a high-profile individual.

Griner admitted guilt but said that it was an, “honest mistake,” and has said that the cannabis is used to treat chronic pain.

The maximum sentence for such a crime in Russia was 10 years, according to the Associated Press.

Though colloquially some believe Griner’s hefty sentence length is in part due to her celebrity status compounded by the ongoing Ukraine conflict, the Russian government is notoriously aggressive over cannabis.

Russia’s treatment of cannabis is far more stringent than that of other countries. In addition to Griner and Whelan, another American, Mark Fogel, is being held in a labor camp in Russia after attempting to enter Russia with medical marijuana. Fogel, who is 60 years old, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Fogel suffers from chronic spinal pain, the reason he uses medicinal marijuana.

Joe Biden’s comments on the Brittney Griner situation

Joe Biden said this of Brittney Griner’s sentence when it was initially announced:

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”

The same statement mentioned Whelan, but made no mention of Fogel.

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