On Aug. 6, 2022, the Occupy Democrats Facebook page posted a meme about WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner that purported to compare Griner’s jail sentence in Russia to that of a white American named Audrey Lorber. It read, “Brittney Griner, a 31-year-old Black American woman, was arrested in Russia with 0.7 grams of THC. She was sentenced to 9 years. Audrey Lorber, a 19-year-old white American woman, was arrested in Russia with 19 grams of THC. She was released in 2 months. Anti-blackness is global.”
Here are the facts. According to the USA Today, Griner was arrested in Russia in February 2022 for possession of a vape cartridge with 0.7 grams of cannabis oil. The arrest occurred at Sheremetyevo International Airport after the “Russian Federal Customs Service found vape cartridges containing the marijuana concentrate hashish oil in [her] luggage,” according to CBS Sports. In early August, a judge sentenced her to nine years in prison and ordered her to pay “1 million rubles, or about $16,400,” CNN reported.
As for Lorber‘s story, CBS News reported that she was “fined 15,000 rubles ($235)” and spent roughly two months in jail after “authorities found about 19 grams of marijuana on her” in 2019. Revolt.tv reported that she is white.
For clarification, WebMD defines THC as “the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.” Cannabis oil, the item Griner had in her possession, contains THC. The Occupy Democrats meme mentioned “THC” for both Griner and Lorber, but didn’t make it clear exactly what they were charged with possessing.
The exact reason or reasons as to why Griner faced a much stiffer fine and jail sentence are not definitively known, though some have hypothesized it may have to do with her race, sexual orientation, and the ongoing war in Ukraine. The Russian government has a history of opposition against the LGBTQ movement. Griner is both Black and gay. Also, her arrest came just one week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which provided the possibility of political implications.
After Griner was sentenced, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) published, “It has been evident since the beginning that Brittney was being used as a political pawn to be leveraged when needed by the Russian government during its invasion of Ukraine.” It also said if she was not being used as a “political pawn,” she would have “received similar treatment to another American, Audrey Lorber.”
The NBJC describes itself as “a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.”
About Bishop Swan. https://www.talbertswan.org/about-bishop-swan/.
AlBaroudi, Wajih, et al. Brittney Griner Situation Explained: WNBA Star Sentenced to Nine Years in Russian Prison. 4 Aug. 2022, https://www.cbssports.com/wnba/news/brittney-griner-situation-explained-wnba-star-sentenced-to-nine-years-in-russian-prison/.
Bellamy-Walker, Tat. Russia Makes Failed Attempt to Shut down Prominent LGBTQ Rights Group. 11 Feb. 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/russia-makes-failed-attempt-shut-prominent-lgbtq-rights-group-rcna15913.
Bumbaca, Chris, and Scooby Axson. Brittney Griner’s Cannabis Use Is Normal in America. But Russia’s Drug Laws Are “Draconian.” 3 Aug. 2022, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/wnba/mercury/2022/08/03/brittney-griner-cannabis-use-issue-draconian-russia/10218755002/.
Chernova, Anna, et al. WNBA Star Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Jail for Drug-Smuggling. 4 Aug. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/04/europe/brittney-griner-trial/index.html.
Kohli, Anisha, and Solcyre Burga. What to Know About WNBA Star Brittney Griner’s Detention in Russia. 1 July 2022, https://time.com/6193324/brittney-griner-timeline-russia/.
Litvinova, Daria. Russia Frees American Teen Convicted of “Attempting to Import” Prescription Marijuana. 17 Sept. 2019, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russia-releases-american-teen-audrey-lorber-today-jailed-attempting-to-import-marijuana-2019-09-17/.
National Black Justice Coalition Statement on Brittney Griner Being Sentenced to 9-Years in Russian Prison. 4 Aug. 2022, https://nbjc.org/nbjc-statement-on-brittney-griner-sentencing/.
Vorobyov, Niko. “Opinion | Brittney Griner Highlights Russia’s Inhumane Drug Policies.” Washington Post, 10 Aug. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/10/brittney-griner-russia-inhumane-drug-laws/.
Yates, Shanique. Russia Released a Staten Island Teen Jailed for Weed Possession in 2019. 5 Aug. 2022, https://www.revolt.tv/article/2022-08-05/184609/russia-released-a-staten-island-teen-jailed-for-weed-possession-in-2019/.