Griner pled guilty to the drug charges in Russian court earlier this month but said that “there was no intent” to break the law as she brought the cartridges into the country by accident.
Even if the cartridges were brought into Russia by mistake, Griner’s lawyer revealed that the WNBA star actually had a very good reason to have cannabis in the first place: it was recommended by her doctor to treat pain.
“The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis. The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health,” lawyer Maria Blagovolina said, according to Fox News.
Regardless of the doctor’s recommendation, however, hashish and cannabis are banned throughout Russia, and Griner’s possession of the products was illegal in the country.
Though Griner has already pled guilty to the drug charges, the trial continues. However, legal experts told the New York Times that the possibility of a fair trial is low, the presumption of innocence does not exist, and the chances are slim she will avoid a conviction.
“There’s a bias mainly because the Russian judicial system says they really should not go to trial unless the defendant is going to be convicted,” said William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute and an expert on Russian law. “There’s no real idea or expectation that the defendant could be innocent. There’s no presumption of innocence, really.”
If convicted, Griner could face a sentence of 10 years in a Russian penal colony.