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Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke about the imprisonment in Russia of Brittney Griner, an American basketball superstar and Olympic gold medalist, and expressed confusion at the White House’s efforts to bring her back while drug users in the U.S. remain jailed.
Musk questioned the aggressive push by the White House to negotiate Griner’s release while marijuana remains federally illegal on an episode of the “Full Send” podcast this week.
“If the president is working so hard to free someone who is in jail in Russia for some weed, shouldn’t we free people in America?” Musk asked on the show.
“There are people in jail in America for the same stuff. Shouldn’t we free them too? My opinion is that people should not be in jail for non-violent drug crimes.”
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A Russian judge convicted Griner of drug possession and drug smuggling and sentenced her to nine years in prison. She was also fined 1 million rubles, the equivalent of about $16,200.
The United States will “pursue” a prisoner swap with Russia for U.S. citizens Griner and Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Cambodia Friday morning.
Blinken’s comment came as he was asked at the foreign ministers meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, about remarks Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made regarding a potential prisoner swap.
“We put forward, as you know, a substantial proposal that Russia should engage with us on. And what Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning and said publicly is that they are prepared to engage through channels we’ve established to do just that, and we’ll be pursuing,” Blinken said during a press conference at ASEAN.
Musk is not a regular drug user himself, saying that he finds marijuana compromising to his work.
“I find weed’s not that good for productivity,” Musk said. “I do actually have to make the rockets work and the cars work and make the factories work.”
The tech mogul was shown once smoking marijuana on an episode of the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
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Musk smoked marijuana on an episode of Rogan’s show in 2018. Musk said he was not a regular user and asked if it was legal. After taking one puff from the tobacco-marijuana filled joint, the tech mogul passed it back.
In California, where the podcast was recorded, recreational marijuana use is legal, but SpaceX maintains federal contracts, and the use of marijuana is against federal law.
Musk described the podcast incident as damaging.
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“I didn’t think I’d get that much backlash. The consequences for me and for SpaceX were not good,” Musk said. “Because it’s still federally illegal. It was pretty nutty, actually, because I had to have random drug tests and stuff after that to prove I’m not a drug addict.”
Musk said that the increased scrutiny on his employees upset him, recalling that he apologized, saying, “Sorry guys, I didn’t realize it’d be this big of a deal.”