Now 69 years old, Michael Thompson has been in prison for the last 25 years for selling three pounds of pot to an undercover police informant in 1994. That could soon end.
He was sentenced to 40 to 60 years for his nonviolent cannabis crime, and though he was unarmed at the time of the sale, his sentence was increased after police later found guns on his properties, including an antique rifle and guns that belonged to his wife.
Thompson’s mother, father and only son have died while he’s been in custody. This past August, he was hospitalized with COVID-19. And last December, recreational sales of legal cannabis began in his home state of Michigan.
On Nov. 17, Thompson will receive a public hearing from the Michigan Parole Board, reports Ganjapreneur.
“Given the health risks Michael is facing as a 69-year-old with pre-existing conditions, recovering from COVID-19, we hope the parole board and the Governor’s office will act as expeditiously as possible to release Michael,” said Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel for the Last Prisoner Project. “However, we are heartened that the process is moving forward with the scheduling of a public hearing, the last procedural hurdle before the Governor can grant clemency,” Gersten said.
Thompson’s lawyers submitted a petition of clemency to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in January.
A previous petition to former Governor Rick Snyder was denied without explanation in 2018, according to FreeMichaelThompson.com. Thompson’s lawyers had to wait two years before filing the latest petition.
Whitmer has been vocal about supporting cannabis reforms and, earlier this month, she signed legislation that would allow for individuals convicted of low-level marijuana crimes to have their records expunged, reports Marijuana Moment.
Thompson also has the support of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has advocated for his release. In August, Nessel wrote a letter to Whitmer urging the commutation of his sentence. “The sentence imposed on Mr. Thompson is the product of a different time in Michigan legal history,” she wrote. “And it is a time that has passed.”
In June, audio of a phone call with Thompson was shared on Twitter.
Speaking from Michigan’s Muskegon Correctional Facility, he expressed fear about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 and also questioned the length of his sentence.
“My sentence simply doesn’t fit the crime,” he said at the time. “When is someone finally going to hear the cries? Enough is enough.”
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