U.S. offers deal for return of Griner, who faces 10 years for cannabis oil possession July 28, 2022 By Griffin Coop The Biden administration made an offer to bring home star American basketball player Brittney Griner, arrested in Russia in February for possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Griner, whose wife is Little Rock native Cherelle Griner (nee Watson), has been at the center of a high-stakes diplomatic battle that began earlier this year as Russia was beginning its invasion of neighboring Ukraine. According to reports, the United States has offered to trade Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage. Griner has pleaded guilty to possession of the cannabis oil and maintains that she took the oil to Russia unintentionally because she had packed her bags hastily. During Griner’s trial, which began earlier this month and is ongoing, her team said she was prescribed cannabis legally by a doctor in the United States. Griner faces up to 10 years if convicted. According to the reports, the United States is attempting to recover Griner along with Whelan, an American arrested in Russia in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years for espionage. Whelan maintains his innocence. Griner and Whelan would be exchanged for Bout, a former Soviet military officer who was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years for conspiracy to kill Americans, acquire and export antiaircraft missiles and provide support for a terrorist organization. Bout’s accusers nicknamed him the “Merchant of Death,” although he maintains his innocence. Cherelle Griner was born and raised in Little Rock before graduating from high school in Texas, according to several online reports. Cherelle Griner expressed frustration with the Biden administration last month as Brittney Griner’s detainment dragged on and a phone call between the couple did not happen as scheduled. Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press at the time that she had “zero trust in our government right now.” Cherelle Griner told ABC News this week that she has not spoken to her wife on the phone but has communicated with her “sporadically” through letters. Brittney Griner plays professional basketball for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and UMMC, a professional basketball team in Ekaterinburg in Russia.