Legalized cannabis programs have generated tax revenue and created jobs, and have also moved cities and counties to implement expungement programs to remove previous cannabis-related arrests and convictions. But these programs only go so far, and there are still those who may not be eligible for expungement but deserve their freedom. Should anyone in a state with a legalized cannabis program be serving time for selling something that’s now being licensed and taxed to the benefit of the state?
Someone who probably has an opinion on the matter is Michael “Meeko” Thompson. in 1994, Thompson was sentenced for selling three pounds of cannabis to an undercover informant in Michigan. For that crime, a judge sentenced him to 40 to 60 years in prison, and Thompson just passed his 25th year serving that obscene sentence. Thanks to an outstanding piece by Tana Ganeva of the Intercept, we have a better understanding as to what Drug War POWs have lost, and the importance of continuing to support their freedom.
Ganeva explains that Thompson, a now-68-year-old African American, was arrested after the cannabis sale, and authorities charged him with “firearms possession,” even though at the time of the sale, he did not have any firearms on him. Thompson readily admitted to being a gun owner, with two of the guns found at his home being an antique rifle and a gun belonging to his wife. Although gun ownership (and open carry) are legal in Michigan, Thompson found himself sentenced to 40 to 60 years because of the combination of the guns and the three-pound sale.
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A spokesperson for the Corrections Department told the Intercept, “The reason he is still in prison is because he was sentenced to a 40-60 term for firearms possession by a felon. This is a very lengthy term for this charge, and is one of the longest we have ever seen the courts send us. It is definitely a rare case in that respect, rather than the marijuana connection.”
When Michigan passed an adult-use cannabis program in 2018, it was hoped that departing governor Rick Snyder would issue Thompson a pardon, and Thompson submitted an application for commutation in January 2018. Eleven fucking months later, Gov. Snyder refused to sign the application, and Thompson cannot submit a new application until January 2020.
The incoming governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has the ability to pardon Thompson, and the Intercept article has created enough interest that Thompson now has legal assistance to file a petition for clemency from Governor Whitmer.
Thompson’s cause has been championed by the non-profit CAN-DO, who are “advocates Clemency for All Non-violent Drug Offenders.” Their founder, Amy Povah, is herself a former drug prisoner who received clemency from President Clinton. Regarding Thompson, she told the Intercept, “He has already served a quarter of a century for pot—that in itself is a crime. The fact he owned guns that were unrelated to the underlying crime should not disqualify Thompson from receiving a commutation. President Obama granted over 145 men who were charged as felons in possession of a firearm in addition to their drug charges. No one that was released by President Obama for gun charges has reoffended, that we know of.”