Today, a Russian court sentenced WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for bringing cannabis into the country. If you recall, Ms. Griner was arrested on February 17, 2022 at the Moscow airport and her case has made international headlines because of Russia’s war with Ukraine.
In early March, Sports Illustrated shared a video of Brittney going through security. “In footage from the Russian Federal Customs Service obtained by CBS News, the 6′ 9″ Griner can be seen being pulled aside by Customs Service officials in the Sheremetyevo International Airport. The video then shows an individual rummaging through Griner’s belongings as the WNBA star sat close by.” They found vape cartridges containing hashish oil during a search of her luggage.
Brittney Griner’s lawyers argued that she “had a medical prescription for the drug that she mistakenly carried into Russia.” Her lawyers argued that she had packed in a hurry and they provided evidence including a doctor’s appointment for the substance.
According to ESPN: “Griner apologized in court yesterday to her teammates, fans and the city of Ekaterinburg, where she has played during WNBA off-seasons since 2014. ‘I never meant to hurt anybody. I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here,” she said. “I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here.'”
As you can tell in Britney’s case, it doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or Joe Shmoe. You must know the rules when visiting foreign countries. I think there’s a valuable lesson to be learned by all travelers from Brittney’s arrest. It doesn’t matter what the laws are at home, when you travel, all that matters is what the laws are of the country you’re traveling to and through.
Many countries have zero tolerance for even the most minuscule amount of drugs. For example, in 2008, the Daily Mail wrote: “Briton jailed for four years in Dubai after customs find cannabis weighing less than a grain of sugar under his shoe.” Crazy to think that this father-of-three, who was found with just a microscopic speck of cannabis stuck to the bottom of one of his shoes, got four years in a Dubai prison but some countries don’t mess around.
In Japan: “Many common medications and over-the-counter drugs in the United States are illegal in Japan. It does not matter if you have a valid U.S. prescription for a medicine/drug which is illegal in Japan: if you bring it with you, you risk arrest and detention by the Japanese authorities.” Also stimulant drugs (Amphetamines, methamphetamines), “including certain medicines for the treatment of ADD/ADHD (such as Adderall, Vyvanse and Dexedrine) are strictly prohibited and illegal to bring into Japan.”
My purpose here is not to scare you, rather to educate you about the seriousness of this and to remind you to do a little research on the places you’re traveling to, from and through before crossing any borders.
And it’s not just countries you need to worry about, too. It’s state to state as well. For example, one user asked TSA in 2020: “Are marijuana pens/oil cartridges allowed either in checked or carry-on bags from LAX to DTW?” The TSA replied, saying: “Marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law except for products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis or that are approved by FDA. (See the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334.) TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities. Please visit: http://bit.ly/2sehFKQ