Michigan man at center of MSNBC’s new documentary shows the harm of the war on drugs

Flint native Michael Thompson received the state’s longest non-violent prison sentence for convictions stemming from selling pot

Michael Thompson was granted clemency by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. - Michigan Department of Corrections
Michigan Department of Corrections
Michael Thompson was granted clemency by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

A Michigan story that illustrates the harms of the war on drugs is set to gain a wide national audience.

MSNBC has partnered with video on demand platform Documentary+ to air a new film about Michael Thompson, a Flint man who received Michigan’s longest sentence for a non-violent offender after he was caught selling three pounds of cannabis to an undercover cop.

The Sentence of Michael Thompson debuts on MSNBC at 10 p.m. on Oct. 30, and will be available to stream on Documentary+ starting Nov. 1.

According to the press release:

The Sentence of Michael Thompson is equal parts a condemnation of the faults within our criminal justice system and an admiration for the Thompson family’s faith and optimism in the face of injustice. The film strips away the artifice of thinking that the war on drugs was a boon to underprivileged communities, and presents it more accurately as a revolving door of mass incarceration. In-depth interviews with Thompson’s attorneys and family members reveal the heartbreaking damage done to the families of the incarcerated and the hypocrisy of a system that keeps non-violent offenders locked up as others profit from cannabis legalization.

Thompson was sentenced in 1996 for firearms possession by a felon after selling three pounds of cannabis to a friend-turned-undercover cop. He remained behind bars even after Michigan voters legalized cannabisin 2018, until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer granted him clemency in 2020.

The doc is directed by Kyle Thrash and Haley Elizabeth Anderson. It is presented by MSNBC Films and XTR along with a Synonymous Pictures production, produced by Thrash and W. Ian Ross, and was executive produced for MSNBC Films by MSNBC President Rashida Jones and MSNBC Films vice president of longform acquisitions Amanda Spain alongside Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett, Justin Lacob, Lydia Kives for XTR, and William Crause.

It earned awards at several festivals, including the Audience Awards at SXSW and the Chicago Critics Film Festival, the Jury Award at the Riverrun International Film Festival, and the Jury and Audience Award at the Palm Springs International Shortfest.

You can watch a trailer for the film below.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland “Lee” DeVito is the editor in chief of Detroit Metro Times since 2016. His writing has also been published in CREEM, VICE, In These Times, and New City. He once asked porn star Stormy Daniels to spank him with an issue of Metro Times. She obliged.

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