WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison after being found with cannabis vape cartridges in her carry-on luggage at a Moscow airport in February, according to Russian authorities.
The two-time Olympic basketball champion and member of the U.S. national team was arrested after she was found carrying cannabis-derived oil cartridges.
Before the verdict was announced, Griner told the court she had no intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil into the country when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.
Laws about possessing cannabis products vary by state and country, which may affect what happens to a person traveling with one.
Here is what you should know about traveling with cannabis products.
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In the U.S., marijuana is still illegal federally
While marijuana is legal for adults in some U.S. states, it is still illegal under federal law. It is not advisable to transport it over state lines.
THC is the primary psychoactive substance in marijuana. CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis that is often sold in other products, such as lotions and supplements.
Certain cannabis-infused products, including CBD oil, are illegal at the federal level if they contain more than 0.3 percent of THC on a dry weight basis.
It is not clear if the cartridges that Russian officials say Griner was carrying had either or both CBD or THC.
The Food and Drug Administration has only approved one cannabis-derived product, Epidiolex, which has a purified form of CBD, the agency said in January 2021, and three synthetic cannabis-related drug products: Marinol (dronabinol), Syndros (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone). These are only available with prescriptions by licensed healthcare providers.
TSA doesn’t search for drugs
Transportation Security Administration officers are required to report suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities, but they do not search for illegal drugs during the screenings.
“TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer,” the website states.
TSA said their dogs aren’t sniffing for marijuana either. However, on an Instagram post they reiterated that if during the screening a substance that appears to be marijuana or a cannabis-infused product is found, law enforcement will be notified, even if it is used for medicinal purposes.
Traveling internationally with cannabis products
There is no specific guidance for traveling with cannabis products internationally, but if a product is illegal in a country, traveling with it could bring consequences.
For example, cannabis is legal for adults in Canada, but the government website for travel and tourism states it is illegal to transport these products across Canadian borders regardless of the amount of cannabis and medical authorizations.
This applies even if the person is traveling to or from a place where cannabis has been decriminalized, according to the website. Consequences for traveling with cannabis products includes being denied entry into a country.
“You could be denied entry at your destination country if you have previously used cannabis or any substance prohibited by local laws,” the Canadian government website states. “You could also be denied entry to other countries in the future.”
Two women arrested in recent years for similar reasons in Russia
In Russia, marijuana is illegal for both recreational and medical purposes.
An Israeli-American woman was arrested at a Moscow airport in April 2019 as she was traveling from India to Israel and nine grams of marijuana were found in her luggage, BBC News reported.
Naama Issachar, 26, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for drug trafficking charges. The BBC reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned her in January 2020 ahead of a visit of then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow.
Similarly, a New York-based film student was charged with drug possession in St. Petersburg for allegedly taking medical marijuana into the country, The Moscow Times reported in September 2019.
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CBS News reported Audrey Lorber was detained when she arrived in St. Petersburg for vacation and authorities found about 19 grams of marijuana on her. She said the drug was for medical reasons and showed the prescription but police said it wasn’t valid in Russia, CBS reported.
Lorber spent more than a month in a detention sentence. A court in St. Petersburg fined her for 15,000 rubles or $230 after finding her guilty.
Story Credit: usatoday.com