BURTON, MI — Selling marijuana sent Michael Thompson to prison years ago, but today a company that sells the substance is helping him to get a message out.
It’s been nearly two months since Thompson, 69, was released from prison at Charles Egeler Reception And Guidance Center in Jackson.
For the last 25 years he’s been seen as a prisoner.
Today, he puts on his best clothes including a blazer, Kangol hat and glasses to match as goes to work as brand ambassador for a cannabis cultivation facility.
Bob Dodge, co-owner of UBaked in Burton, saw news reports about Thompson’s decades long prison sentence being commuted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
As someone who profits off the product that put Thompson in prison, Dodge felt compelled to reach out.
“I felt that his incarceration was a mass overload of sentencing,” Dodge told MLive-The Flint Journal in an interview at the center. “I thought, we’re selling multiple pounds of flower every day legally and we’re profiting from it while he’s in prison.”
Thompson was sent to prison to serve a 42- to 62-year sentence after he was convicted in 1996 on five felony counts related to selling marijuana to an undercover law enforcement officer in 1994.
The charges included three drug charges: possession with intent to sell, conspiracy to possess with intent to sell and selling marijuana, as well as two weapons charges.
“I kind of dug a little deeper,” Dodge said of the time that Thompson served. “Are we profiting from this industry because he’s sitting in prison? Has that progression changed to the point where these people incarcerated for marijuana charges caught the attention of the political arena enough to say, OK, we’re going to legalize stuff but these guys are still sitting in prison?”
Those are the thoughts and questions Dodge had that ultimately led him to reaching out to Thompson’s daughter, Rashawnda Littles, to connect with Thompson when he was released.
Before Thompson was released, Dodge committed to taking care of certain necessities for him such as paying for WiFi to connect his tether, a new cell phone and later paying for his new home to be painted.
As brand ambassador, Thompson is using his new platform to speak about prison reform and the conditions of prisons throughout the state.
Dodge and Thompson are planning to attend 20 vendor events over the next month to continue to tell his story, with the goal of enacting change within the prison system.
His position comes with a salary and benefits, according to Thompson and Dodge.
UBaked, established in December 2019, supplies about 75 percent of the dispensaries across the state, according to Dodge.
“Times have changed since I went away to prison and when it was frowned down on marijuana and now they accept it,” Thompson explained. “So, it’s kind of weird, but it’s a whole new day, but I did 25 years before they realized they were wrong.”
Thompson said two of things he wants to see changed are felony murder charges and wants more emphasis on the prisoners getting good conduct time. That’s when prisoners get their sentences reduced for good behavior.
“There needs to be something done in the prison to help these people prepare themselves for the outside,” Dodge said.
Dodge was also instrumental in helping Thompson get his retirement funds from General Motors.
Some of the conditions Thompson endured while in prison included washing his clothing in the toilet for several months and not being able to get an MRI for 15 years. Dodge has since paid for Thompson’s MRI.
One caveat about Thompson’s new job is that he can’t work with any of the products at the facility as part of his role because of the restrictions that come with his parole guidelines.
An added bonus is getting to see his 23-year-old grandson of the same name work at the facility as a trimmer.
Dodge and Thompson’s partnership has expanded beyond work and flourished into friendship, they both say.
“You don’t have many people dealing with humanity inside of them,” Thompson said.
Read more on MLive:
Life after prison: Michigan men aim to mentor those the justice system gave up
Inside Michigan man’s prison sentence: No visitors for nearly 20 years, losing a son and COVID-19 battle
Michigan man commuted by Gov. Whitmer gets $266K for ‘dream home’ via GoFundMe
Michigan prisoner seeks clemency in marijuana case after serving more than 20 years in prison
Michigan AG ‘horrified’ by Michael Thompson’s 42-to-62 year sentence for 1994 marijuana case
Sick with COVID-19, inmate can’t get out of prison even with AG, prosecutor backing him
Muskegon inmate with coronavirus receives meeting with parole board after AG support
Thompson contacts COVID-19
Thompson receive meeting with Parole Board