Demonstrators with advocacy group DC Marijuana Justice plan to gather at the Russian Embassy in Washington around 4:20 p.m. Thursday and light up in protest of Moscow’s treatment of WNBA star Brittney Griner.
The move comes two days after a Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal of her nine-year sentence for possessing cannabis oil cartridges in the country.
“We want Brittany released and free of the sham charges that Putin imposed on her as his failed invasion of Ukraine backfired and he elevated Russia to the status of most dangerous rogue nation on the planet,” DC Marijuana Justice co-founder and event organizer Adam Eidinger said in a statement, adding he wants Russian President Vladimir Putin “to take a good look at what freedom looks like” in the U.S.
“Cannabis is a medical and personal choice for adults in America, no matter the party, gender, religion or race,” Eidinger added. “Putin hates freedom, but that’s exactly what we want to give him, a freedom toke.”
Eidinger told The Washington Post that protesters will also bring flags with green pot leaves and a 50-foot inflatable joint with a message about Griner. He also plans to throw marijuana leaves onto the Russian Embassy grounds.
D.C., along with 19 U.S. states, has legalized recreational marijuana use.
Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, has been held in detainment in Russia since February, arrested one week before the Kremlin began its war against neighboring Ukraine.
The Biden administration says it has made Griner’s case, along with that of another Russian-held American, former U.S. Marine Paul Whalen, one of its top priorities, saying that both individuals are wrongfully detained.
Griner’s attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement on Tuesday that their client is “disappointed” with the outcome of her appeal hearing, saying that Griner fears she will serve her entire sentence in the country.
“Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia,” the statement added. “She had hopes for today as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her.”
Fellow basketball stars such as Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets have used their platforms to advocate for the seven-time WNBA All-Star’s release from Russia.