In 1994, Michael Thompson was arrested for selling 3 pounds of cannabis to an undercover informant.
Two years later, Michael Thompson was sentenced for his offenses, including illegal firearms and a prior felony conviction for drug-related crimes in the 1980s. According to the law, Thompson was a “habitual offender” who deserved 42 to 60 years in prison.
Today, however, cannabis is a legal substance for recreational use in Michigan.
Pleas for Release as COVID-19 Infects Prison
Though the 69-year old remains ineligible for parole until age 87, he is now requesting release for medical treatment after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday, August 7th.
Thompson suffers from Type 2 diabetes and is uniquely vulnerable to the life-threatening complications of the virus.
While lacking the authority to grant a commutation, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressing her “strong support” for Thompson’s release.
A commutation, or the reduction of a prisoner’s sentence to a specified term, would allow for Michael Thompson to be released early and get the medical treatment he needs.
Referring to the punishment as “egregiously disproportionate,” Nessel requested that Gov. Whitemer consider his application “as expeditiously as possible.”
“While technically legal, the sentence imposed on Mr. Thompson is the product of a different time in Michigan legal history. And it is a time that has passed,” she stated in the letter.
“Sentences of this length for selling marijuana are simply unheard of, even when accompanied by firearms offenses,” Nessel explained. “Given that recreational and medicinal marijuana is now legal in Michigan, allowing Mr. Thompson to continue serving the very draconian sentence, in this case, is even more distasteful.”
Nessel’s letter also points out that current Michigan laws require sentences to be reviewed for reasonableness under the “principle of proportionality,” which requires sentences imposed by a trial court to be proportionate to the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding the offense and the offender.
Cannabis and criminal justice reform advocates are also fighting for Thompson’s release with a campaign called “Free Michael Thompson.”
“Now more than ever, we need your help to set Michael free,” reads the campaign’s website. “Don’t let a cannabis sentence become a death sense for Michael.”
Click here to read the full letter from the Attorney General.
Written by Rita Thompson
Despite Early Launch of Adult-Use Cannabis Market in Michigan, 79% of State Will Remain Without Legal Access
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