From Incarceration to Clio Cannabis Awards: "The Sentence of Michael Thompson"

October 27th, 2023 Culture & Lifestyle
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Michael Thompson's story is one that resonates deeply within Michigan's history, particularly given its recent developments around marijuana legalization. The Emmy-nominated documentary, "The Sentence of Michael Thompson," dives deep into the repercussions of the war on drugs, revealing a painful narrative of a man handed a 42-60 year sentence for selling merely three pounds of marijuana. A landmark case, Thompson's punishment was the longest non-violent offense sentence in Michigan's history.

This poignant film recently earned two distinguished Clio Cannabis awards, with the Grand Clio for Advocacy work being among them, a testament to the documentary's compelling content and its broader message on the war on drugs.

Having spent 25 years behind bars, Thompson, devoid of bitterness, has now embarked on a mission to assist others who find themselves in similar unfortunate circumstances.

In a candid interview with Benzinga, Thompson, currently the president of the Michael Thompson Clemency Project, delved into his past, revealing how he was ensnared by a system that disproportionately targets people of color through stacked charges. After selling marijuana to a friend, who later turned out to be a police informant, Thompson was entangled in Michigan's system of stacking felonies. This system, as Thompson describes, seems particularly prone to target people of color, leading to his extended sentence, from which he served 25 years and now remains on a 4-year parole.

Family, Thompson noted, was his anchor during his time in prison, particularly his son, who was tragically taken away from him. Reflecting on the challenges of prison life, Thompson underlined the realization of who true allies in life are.

The legalization of adult-use cannabis in Michigan brought mixed feelings for Thompson. On one hand, it signaled progress. On the other, it was a stark reminder of the many years he lost for a crime that is no longer deemed punishable.

But Thompson's spirit remains unbroken. Through the Michael Thompson Clemency Project, he stands as a voice for those entrapped by harsh sentencing—those serving time for marijuana offenses, habitual offenders, and those sentenced under felony murder terms. Thompson's passion is evident: "How do you throw the key away for those that you sentenced under the terms of habitual offender and felony murder?" He questions the justice system's rigidity and its disproportionate impact on Americans.

Addressing the broader context of marijuana legalization, Thompson stressed the significance of federal legalization. The federal statute, he believes, hampers the progress states could achieve. Aligning the federal statute with the state is a crucial step towards mending a broken system.

Michael Thompson's story isn't just his own. It stands as a testament to the deep flaws within the American criminal justice system. As he fights against "trap sentences," his journey begs the question—why aren't there more champions like him? Why aren't there more funds allocated to such noble causes?

In a landscape where the marijuana industry is ever-evolving, stories like Thompson's are vital. They serve as a reminder of the past mistakes, the progress yet to be made, and the hope for a more equitable future.

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