Flint man freed from prison after 25 years for selling pot, granted clemency

After serving 25 years behind bars, the last several fighting for his freedom, 69-year-old Michael Thompson walked out a quarantine facility in Jackson County - as a free man.

His family waited in the parking lot with open arms for a long-anticipated reunion.

"It feels good," he said. "I wasn't expecting all of this, this is beautiful." 

Early morning Thursday, Thompson took a moment to celebrate his release.

"I'm happy that I am free but there is so much work to be done with prison reform," Thompson said.

But he was brought to tears when he thought about other inmates, who are still locked away.

"The guys - they need help," he said.

Back in the 1990s - police arrested Thompson for selling three pounds of marijuana to an undercover informant in Flint.
Thompson wasn't armed at the time, but investigators eventually searched his home and found firearms, mostly antiques that were locked in a gun safe, but Thompson wasn't allowed to have because of prior convictions.

With that, a judge sentenced Thompson to up to 60 years in prison. He was not going to be released until he was 87 years old.  

"I can't believe this is the day, I feel like this is a dream. I am happy this will finally be over," said Rashawnda Littles, his daughter.

Thompson's daughter is thankful to the support and donations over the last few years that helped free her father.

It was a movement led by the Cannabis Caucus and other marijuana advocacy groups getting the attention of Attorney General Dana Nessel who called Thompson's sentence "egregiously disproportionate" - especially because marijuana is now legal in Michigan.

"It shouldn't take what it has taken to get him out," said Kimberly Kendall, his attorney. "This sentence is egregious by any measure, and when you look at the volume of manpower it has taken to get this release it reveals some of the fundamental flaws in the criminal justice system's ability to correct itself."

Last December, Governor Gretchen Whitmer decided to grant Thompson clemency.

"I'm just trying to breathe it all in, a lot of things have changed," Thompson said.

When Thompson made it to his hometown of Flint, he was greeted by many other supporters including Michigan Supply and Provisions who handed him a check for $15,000 to put toward a new place to live.

Thompson says he plans to get some sleep - but then continue work with inmates like him, who were locked up for marijiana, which is no longer an illegal crime.

"I love life, and most of all I love people," he said.

On a lighter note, the first thing we wanted after being released, was a trip to McDonald's for a sausage and egg McMuffin on his way back to Flint.

With this clemency, the prior conviction still stays on his record but he was granted immediate parole. 

Thompson said he really wants to work to bring freedom to others like him still in prison, for non-violent marijuana offenses.