Michigan Man Michael Thompson Attempts Parole After Decades In Jail
A Michigan man who spent a quarter-century behind bars for a nonviolent marijuana offense could be released this week when a parole board considers his parole application. Michael Thompson, a native of Flint, Michigan, was convicted in 1994 of selling three pounds of marijuana to an undercover police informant and sentenced to 42 to 62 years in prison - a sentence that was compounded by a firearm found in his possession when he was arrested. But the nonviolent nature of the offense, along with the legalization of marijuana in Michigan, has led to calls for Thompson's release - who can be released at 87 according to his current sentence.
In January, Thompson's lawyers filed a motion to commute their client's sentence, and the initiative was supported by Attorney General Dana Nessel, who wrote a letter to Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan asking for his sentence to be commuted so that he could be released in time.
“I have been practicing law for 27 years and was shocked and appalled when I saw the verdict”, she added, "I have never seen anything like it”.
Nessel said the sentence for marijuana convictions dates back to a bygone era and Michael Thompson's sentence is far from what has been imposed in other cases of non-violent drug offenses.
In a letter to Whitmer, Nessel wrote, "Although technically legal, Mr. Thompson's ruling is the product of a different time in Michigan's history, he could be acquitted of a drug offense now from when our draconian drug laws were in place”. His continued detention in a state where pot is now legal has attracted national attention, including the case of star cannabis activist Montel Williams, who was arrested last year after a marijuana pipe was found in his car during a traffic stop.
Williams was part of a campaign to secure the release of Thompson and other nonviolent offenders, which was supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that campaigns for an end to incarceration for marijuana convictions. In a statement to the group, Williams said: "Michigan has not yet addressed restorative justice related to cannabis legalization”.
“Governor Whitmer has made a campaign promise, but at this time no action has been taken, Michael Thompson has been refused his legal obligations during his 25th year behind bars, and remains in Muskegon prison for selling three pounds of cannabis to an undercover officer - a crime that has done no harm to anyone.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has done nothing to advance this important political issue while supporting marijuana excesses and people continue to suffer. Michigan is one of 13 states in the country that have legalized recreational marijuana, and the only one that has no criminal conviction reductions or commutations of prison sentences”, Gersten said.
You can ask the Michigan Parole Board to recommend Michael Thompson's release by calling 517-373-0270 or sending an email to the Parole Board staff at [email protected]