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US athlete facing Russian drug charges prescribed cannabis for “chronic pain”

The US basketball star has pleaded guilty to drug charges in Russia.

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US athlete Brittney Griner prescribed cannabis for "chronic pain”
Griner (right) is a two-time Olympic gold medallist. Photo: Instagram/brittneyyevettegriner

The US basketball star, Brittney Griner, who is currently facing drug charges in Russia, was prescribed cannabis medicinally, a court has heard.

Lawyers defending Griner told a Russian court on Friday she was prescribed medical cannabis in the United States for a chronic injury, Reuters reported.

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star was detained at a Moscow airport in February for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Griner, 31, has pleaded guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years, but has said she did not intend to break the law.

During the trial, prosecutors said she was carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil, which is designated as a controlled narcotic in Russia.

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Griner appeared in court on Friday for the fourth hearing in the trial. 

Lawyers on her defence team submitted documents on Friday arguing she “inadvertently” brought the vape cartridges into Russia and had a permit for the use of medical cannabis, issued in the state of Arizona.

The permit was said to be for “severe chronic pain” caused by a sporting injury. 

Griner’s attorney, Maria Blagovolina read a letter from a US medical centre out in court. 

It stated: “On May 18, 2020, Brittney Griner underwent a clinical examination… The patient complained of acute chronic pain due to multiple ankle injuries, as well as injuries and pain sustained during her sports career. The patient complained of pain in the middle back, lower back, knees, and ankle pain.”

The letter was submitted as evidence along with medical test results from 2018, and a medical report by an American doctor from 2020 confirming Griner had “a chronic debilitating disease caused by severe chronic pain.”

The defence hopes the evidence will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and may count towards a more lenient sentence. 

“The defense today provided written evidence, including character materials, medical documents and tax returns,” Blagovolina  told Reuters.

“Among the medical documents is a doctor’s note for the substance that Brittney Griner inadvertently left among her belongings when crossing the border.”

US President Joe Biden has said the United States is doing everything it can to secure her release.

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister title and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email sarah@prohibitionpartners.com / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag

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