BY NDSMITH • MAY 10, 2019
The cannabis laws in America are unfair and racist. Don’t believe that?
Consider 67-year-old Michael Thompson serving 40-60 year bid for selling 3lbs of weed to the manager of a car muffler shop in Flint, Michigan, back in 1994. Homeboy copping happened to be a police informant. Out of his sentence, he has already served 25 years in prison. While the entirety of his crime is not the intent to sell marijuana but also few gun charges (from detectives going to his home and confiscating them off his property), all of the charges link back to the initial weed sell, a nonviolent offense.
Thompson went to jail when he was 32-years-old. According to Next City, since he has been locked up, his mother has died. His mother’s last wish before dying was that her son not die in jail. She reached out to a family member who is a Congressman in Michigan to help, but as of today… there is no movement.
Well, there is some for the state.
In the state of Michigan has a recreational marijuana law, officially known as the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, that went into effect in December of 2018. Proposal 1 made Michigan the first Midwestern state to legalize recreational marijuana. But there are caveats to this legal action. Even though you are a 21-year-old and can smoke it (you can even grow it), but you cannot sell it or buy it. You can also only carry 2.5 ounces. One of the laws states that you cannot blaze in public, but only in the privacy of someone’s home or private property. This law is not that odd… it is very similar to the law in Michigan that forbids you from drinking alcohol in public. According to Next City, according to this new law, cannabis establishments “can be charged up to $5,000 a year to cover law enforcement costs and municipalities can apply a 10 percent excise tax on sales, with the money going toward education, infrastructure and research on marijuana’s medicinal properties.” Basically, folk (from the police to the retailers to civilians) can creatively jump through hoops and get paid off the plant. The same plant that has taken half of Thompson’s life.
The irony of this shift in cannabis legalization could be a good thing for Thompson. Maybe if the laws expand just a little more, he may see the light of day. Until then, he is can focus on putting his experiences to service by supporting younger inmates.
“I’ve been working with the gangs here. I was telling young guys, wash your heart before you do anything, your heart is polluted,” Thompson says. “If you could have just been there to watch it. Guys actually cry inside those workshops.”
There is clearly a racial component to why Thompson is still behind bars. Many wonder where is the Kim Karshasians, petitioning for his release. According to the American Journal of Public Health, Blacks and whites both us illegal drugs almost at the same rates. Still, there is an overwhelming discrepancy on how much more frequently Black men are incarcerated. The stats say that they are locked up 13 times more than white men for comparable drug offenses. Which is mind-blowing when you consider that this country has 5% of the world’s population and the prison-industrial complex harbors 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people.