Although recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2018, there are still thousands of individuals in jail or living with criminal records for marijuana-related offenses that would be legal today. It’s a problem that disproportionally affects Black and brown people in this country, and Michigan resident Michael Thompson is one of those individuals not reaping the benefits of legalization.
Thompson has been in prison for 25 years for three pounds of cannabis. Now, at the age of 68 and with failing health, his situation has grown dire as COVID-19 continues to hit the prison system especially hard.
To work toward releasing Thompson and others in situations similar to his, the Oak Park-based cannabis accessory company and distributor Ooze Wholesale is partnering with the Last Prisoner Project — a nonprofit working towards the release, clearing of records, and reentry programs of those incarcerated on nonviolent marijuana crimes. “It is especially timely to partner with this Michigan brand as we currently are in the midst of release efforts for Michael Thompson,” says Mary Bailey, managing director of the nonprofit. “Michael is now 68 years old, dealing with failing health and highly susceptible to contracting COVID-19 in prison. We can’t let his cannabis sentence be a death sentence.”
As a partner, the Oak Park company will donate $1,000 to Last Prisoner Project every month. Ooze has also joined the Roll It Up For Freedom Program, where customers can choose to round up to the next dollar amount on each purchase from the shop’s website and the proceeds will go toward assisting the nonprofit. And, Ooze is in the process of launching a foundation that will give back in the Detroit community and beyond.
Jane Wagner, content marketing manager at Ooze, says full federal legalization of cannabis is the ultimate goal in reducing weed-related sentences, although she says it’s doubtful when that may happen. “We are very aware that we are succeeding in an industry that has unfairly imprisoned so many in the BIPOC community for decades, and it has been a goal of ours for a while now to support causes to directly help these communities,” Wagner says. “We wanted to partner with an organization that we could build a relationship with and work with for years to come, rather than just making a donation here and there.”