Michigan Department of Corrections

Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer Could Save This Cannabis Prisoner’s Life

Michael Thompson was arrested for selling cannabis in 1994; he was given a de-facto life sentence in prison and now COVID-19 is poised to upgrade that to a death sentence unless Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer does the right thing.

Full story after the jump.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is facing a simple but important decision: she could free Michael Thompson, a man sentenced to 60 years in prison for selling cannabis, or she could allow his unjust and evil punishment to go unchecked, sending a cruel message of disinterest despite her stated support for cannabis reform.

Thompson was arrested in 1994 for selling cannabis to undercover police. He was sentenced to 40-60 years in prison and has served 25 years of that sentence; during that time, Thompson’s mother, father, and only son have passed away. Today, as a 68-year-old man with type-2 diabetes — coupled with the medical and sanitary failures of the U.S. prison system — he is especially at risk from the coronavirus’s most deadly symptoms.

Advocates have mobilized in Thompson’s name and already 21,000 people have reached out to the governor’s office to request her intervention in the situation — but the movement needs more.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton has also called for Thompson’s release. “I was not the elected prosecutor at the time but, what I can say based on my review of the case file almost 25 years later is that the sentence handed down by the judge certainly appears to be disproportionate to the crime committed,” Leyton said in April.

When she was elected, Gov. Whitmer said she would consider cannabis expungement efforts in light of voters’ simultaneous passage of the state’s legalization law. Many other governors in legalized states have taken the popular move of wiping low-level cannabis crimes from the public record — just this week, Nevada’s Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced his plan for the expungement of tens of thousands of cannabis convictions.

However, while such expungement plans are a step in the right direction, they overlook some of the most egregious examples of unjust punishments to arise from cannabis prohibition, including Thompson’s sentence which was boosted significantly after officers found firearms in his home (although no guns were involved in the crime for which he was arrested).

Will Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stand up for what is right and set a positive example for governors around the country? We certainly hope so. To encourage her to do so, we are asking our followers who believe in cannabis justice to take action. Click here to make your voice heard and send a letter telling Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to set Michael Thompson free because nobody deserves to die over an herb.

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