On October 25, 2022, U.S. professional basketball player Brittney Griner lost her bid in a Russian appeals court to overturn a nine-year sentence for attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into Russia. According to reports, Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at a Russian airport in February 2022 while attempting to enter the country to play professional basketball with vaporizer cartridges containing less than one gram of hashish oil, a product derived from marijuana. Griner reportedly has a prescription for medical marijuana in Arizona, but marijuana, including medical marijuana, remains illegal in Russia.
The U.S. Department of State has classified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” a designation that means the United States will act more aggressively to secure her release.
Griner’s situation may be special given the political situation between the countries involved. At the same time, it may serve as a reminder to employers of the risks to employees traveling for work with marijuana given the drug’s varying legal status from country to country and even state to state within the United States.
Varying Legal Status of Marijuana
Currently, recreational marijuana, or cannabis, is legal in twenty-one U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, while medical marijuana is legal in many more. The drug is illegal to import, manufacture, distribute, and possess under the…