Four sentences for individuals serving nonviolent cannabis-related offenses were recently commuted.
The commuted punishments were granted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer who picked individuals who were serving extremely long sentences. “For far too long, the so-called ‘tough on crime’ and ‘War on Drugs’ eras of criminal justice have led to fractured families and broken communities that make our state less safe, particularly for people of color in Michigan,” says Whitmer in a statement. “Our administration has spent the last two years delivering bipartisan solutions to improve the criminal justice system in a way that levels the playing field for individuals who have committed nonviolent offenses
Michael Thompson, one of the men who received a commuted punishment, served 22 years of a 40-to-60-year sentence. While he did possess firearms, there were no violent crimes committed. Lawrence Cadroy already served 21 years for drug possession, and was originally going to have to serve a life sentence. Lorenzo Garret was supposed to serve 29 to 170 years for selling drugs, and served 22 years of that sentence. Finally, Larry McGhee was in prison for 16 years of a 20-to-30-year sentence for selling drugs.
Four lives have been impacted by the governor’s significant decision, but some political figures believe that it just isn’t enough. Senator Sylvia Santana claims there are at least 1,200 people still in state prisons simply for distributing cannabis. Some of them, similar to those who just got their sentences commuted, are serving lengthy sentences for selling drugs or other nonviolent, drug-related offenses. “We’ve now legalized marijuana, and it seems kind of contradictory to continue to have those individuals remain incarcerated on charges of possession or distribution,” says Santana.
Santana has a plan to reduce more sentences overall; a plan that stalled in the state senate committee this year. She plans to reintroduce it again in 2021.