Comparing Marijuana Policies: Why Russia Has the Right to Ignore American criticism
Americans are not exactly the most self-aware people on the planet.
Our politicians and pundits debated endlessly about the detention by the Russians of basketball player Brittney Griner:
But here’s an issue that I didn’t see addressed:
What if the basketball shoe were on the other foot? What would happen, for example, if a Russian athlete got caught with pot while entering the U.S.?
It might not turn out any better. In fact, there’s a chance they would do more time in jail than the ten months Griner was held until she was released in a prisoner swap.
I found that out when I put the question to Morgan Fox, the political director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, otherwise known as NORML.
“A foreign national caught bringing cannabis into the U.S, or a returning U.S. citizen for that matter, would be subject to federal penalties and sentencing guidelines,” Fox said.
Those penalties can be just as draconian as the Russians’.
Americans were outraged at the nine-year sentence the Russians originally meted out to Griner. But that’s not out of line with our penalties, said Fox.
For the amount that Griner was caught with – slightly less than half a gram of hashish oil - the maximum punishment in the U.S. would be up to a year of incarceration, Fox said.
But imagine that person were caught entering the country with a full gram of hash oil.
That’s a tiny amount. A gram is a mere twenty-eighth of an ounce.
Yet in some states such as Texas it could get you 10 years in prison.
Another similarity is that the Russians classify marijuana in the same category as heroin.
So do we.
Under current federal law, both are ranked as Schedule One drugs.
That’s a problem for a lot of reasons, said Fox. Even if you don’t cross a border, you could be caught with pot at a TSA checkpoint and charged with violating federal law.