The governor of Michigan has granted clemency to four currently incarcerated people who are serving time for non-violent drug offenses, including one 69-year-old man whose lengthy sentence for marijuana has been widely criticized by advocates and the state’s attorney general.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) office announced the commutations on Tuesday, and the men could see a release as early as January.
Three of the four people who are receiving clemency are incarcerated over cocaine-related convictions, with decades-long sentences. Michael Thompson, meanwhile, faced a 42-60 year sentence for selling three pounds of cannabis to an undercover police officer and for firearms charges.
“These commutations offer a second chance to four individuals who have accepted responsibility and paid their debts to society and whose sentences span decades for non-violent offenses,” Whitmer said in a press release. “We still have a lot of work to do, but today is a step in the right direction, and I’m confident that Michigan can continue to be a national leader in smart justice.”
After Thompson contracted coronavirus in prison earlier this year, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) strongly recommended that the governor use her authority to facilitate a commutation.
The fact that Michigan legalized marijuana for adult use in 2018 underscores the need for restorative justice, she wrote to the governor.
“A decades-long sentence like that imposed on Mr. Thompson is usually reserved for second-degree murder convictions or for particularly heinous rape cases involving multiple aggravated factors,” Nessel said. “Sentences of this length for selling marijuana are simply unheard of, even when accompanied by firearms offenses.”
The attorney general also noted that under today’s criminal statutes, Thompson’s offense would be punishable by a maximum of four years in prison, or eight if he was convicted