Brittney Griner and Tameka Drummer

Brittney Griner’s conviction in Russia on drug charges has been well-publicized, as has the attempt by the Biden administration to negotiate a deal that would free her. This article says, “Biden himself released a statement calling Griner’s sentence ‘unacceptable’ and promising that his administration would ‘work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.'”

I am not unsympathetic to Griner’s plight. However, it does appear that she violated Russian law when she was caught bringing cannabis oil into the country. While it may seem harsh, she entered a guilty plea and her sentence of nine years in prison is apparently not out of line with typical sentences in Russia.

Why does President Biden appear to be willing to negotiate for her freedom? Why should she be exempt from the consequences if she broke the law? Why should the US government compromise even a little to free her?

To address that question, look at the case of Tameka Drummer, whose name I found through a quick Google search. She was “sentenced to life in prison without parole as a habitual offender for possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana.”

If President Biden is concerned about Americans receiving unacceptably long prison sentences for drug convictions, perhaps he should turn his attention to Ms. Drummer and many more Americans imprisoned in the United States because their drugs of choice are illegal rather than focusing on people who are imprisoned in foreign countries.

President Biden could be using his power gain freedom for Ms. Drummer and many others serving long sentences in American prisons on drug charges. Still, instead, his attention is focused on Brittney Griner, whose freedom would require compromises by the US government. Is Ms. Griner’s case more deserving of the president’s sympathy than Ms. Drummer’s?

One big difference is that President Biden could do something now, using his presidential influence, to help people like Ms. Drummer. He has to compromise with a hostile foreign nation to free Ms. Griner. Is releasing Ms. Griner more in the national interest than freeing Ms. Drummer?

Randall G. Holcombe is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
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