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Brittney Griner was prescribed medical cannabis for ‘severe chronic pain’, lawyers told court


Lawyers for WNBA star Brittney Griner told Russian judges on Friday that she was prescribed medical cannabis for “severe chronic pain.”

Griner’s defense team submitted to the Russian court a letter from a US medical center issuing a license in Arizona in 2020 for the use of medical cannabis for Griner to treat his chronic pain caused by sports injuries.

Also on Friday, Griner’s trial was postponed until July 26 after his attorneys said they needed more time to prepare for the next steps. Griner, 31, pleaded guilty to drug charges, which carried a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating circumstance and that the sentence will not be severe.

US officials classify his arrest as a wrongful detention and say they are “actively engaged” in addressing the issue.

“Yesterday was quite an emotional day for her,” attorney Alexander Boykov told reporters outside court after the hearing ended on Friday. “She saw her general manager, her friend and teammate Evgeniya Belyakova for the first time in many months. And now she just wants to rest.

“She is tired,” added lawyer Maria Blagovolina. “It was pretty tough for her yesterday. But it went well.”

During Thursday’s hearing, the court heard testimony from Belyakova, the captain of the UMMC Yekaterinburg team, the Russian basketball team for which Griner played during the WNBA offseason, as well as the manager of the team, Maksim Ryabkov. Both were presented as character witnesses in Griner’s defense.

Elizabeth Rood, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said in a statement that over the past two days of the hearing, “what has become very clear is the enormous respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia where Ms. Griner has been playing basketball for seven years, not only for her professional achievements, but also for her character and integrity.

Griner was arrested on February 17 at a Moscow airport and was accused by Russian authorities of carrying cannabis oil in her luggage and smuggling large quantities of a narcotic substance. . During the trial, a prosecutor said Griner was carrying less than one gram of cannabis oil, which is designated as a controlled narcotic in Russia.

She was tested for drugs and was clean, her lawyers previously said.

The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist was detained a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, fueling fears among her family and peers that she would be used as a political pawn due to the escalation of diplomatic tensions between Russia and the United States.

The Phoenix Mercury player said in court last week that she had no intention of carrying the cannabis oil in her luggage, saying through her interpreter that it was because she had “packed in a hurry”, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

In court on Friday, Blagovolina read a letter from a US medical center saying, “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 suffered during his sporting career. The patient complained of pain in the middle of the back, lower back, knees and ankle.

Blagovolina presented the letter as evidence along with 2018 medical test results and a 2020 medical report from a U.S. physician confirming that Griner had “a debilitating chronic illness caused by severe chronic pain.”

According to Blagovolina, the doctor advised Griner to use medical cannabis due to the diagnosed “chronic and debilitating medical condition” which “caused chronic and acute pain.”

In a written statement, Griner’s attorneys said Friday, “The defense today provided written evidence, including character support material, medical records and tax returns. Among the medical documents is a medical prescription for the substance that, following an oversight, Brittney Griner left among her belongings when crossing the border. Among the supporting materials for the characters are numerous letters of thanks from various organizations in Yekaterinburg, as well as letters from American basketball associations, UMMC Yekaterinburg, and the Russian Basketball Federation.

Griner’s wife, along with politicians, coaches, players and many WNBA supporters, have called for his release. She was at the forefront of Sunday’s WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago, where Griner was named an honorary All-Star and players donned shirts with her name and number on the back.

“She’s our sister and ultimately we’re going to do everything we can to amplify the platform that we have to make sure everyone is doing what they need to do to make sure that she’s coming home safe,” Las Vegas Aces player A’ja Wilson said after the game. “It’s tough. It’s tough for all of us. It’s not easy. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Brittney Griner.

Ryabkov told reporters after Thursday’s hearing that he provided testimony to tell the court “what an important role she played in the success of the Yekaterinburg club and Russian women’s basketball in general with her performances in Euroleague” and “how it raised our national ranking”. ”

After giving evidence, Belyakova described the detained player to reporters as “a good teammate”.

“We miss her and her energy so much,” she said. “I was very happy to see her. I hope the process will end soon and end well.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week after publicly criticizing the administration’s response to his wife’s detention. Cherelle Griner told CNN in June that she wanted the White House to do more to get his wife back to the United States safely, saying she was not convinced the government’s actions were enough.

In a handwritten letter delivered to Biden, Brittney Griner pleaded for the president to continue fighting for his return and that of other American detainees.

“(As) I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, my family, my friends, my Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified to be here forever,” she wrote, according to a statement released by the communications company representing the Griner family.

“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran. It hurts to think about how I usually celebrate this day because that freedom means something completely different to me this year,” she wrote.

It was Griner’s decision to plead guilty, according to her legal team, who said in a statement that she “has decided to take full responsibility for her actions because she knows she is a role model for many. people”.

Besides Griner, US citizen Paul Whelan is being held in Russia after he was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage, which he vehemently denies.

Following the call with Cherelle Griner, the White House released a reading of the conversation highlighting the president’s efforts to communicate with the families of American detainees.

“The President has instructed his National Security Team to maintain regular contact with the family of Cherelle and Brittney, as well as other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, to keep abreast of efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as soon as possible,” the White House said.


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