Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is calling on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to grant clemency to prisoners in the state convicted of cannabis crimes.
Whitmer signed “Clean Slate” legislation in October 2020 that allowed those with certain criminal convictions to have their records expunged, thus removing barriers to employment and housing. It also specifically mentioned expunging cannabis offenses that would not have been a crime under the state’s adult-use cannabis program, which became legal in December 2018.
While the legislation provided clemency for Michael Thompson, who served 25 years in a Michigan prison for a cannabis conviction, it does not allow automatic expungement for offenses punishable by 10 or more years in prison, which Ben & Jerry’s says negatively impacts others previously convicted of cannabis offenses.
“We thank Governor Whitmer for having the courage to address the injustice in Michael Thompson’s case,” said Chris Miller, head of global activism strategies at Ben & Jerry’s said in a news release. “However, Michael is just one victim, and many in Michigan are still paying a price for the racist war on drugs and the criminalization of cannabis, which is why we are calling on Governor Whitmer to provide justice for all those still incarcerated for cannabis crimes.”
Ben & Jerry’s placed billboards near the Michigan state house in Lansing, as well as mobile billboards in Lansing and Ann Arbor, calling on Whitmer and other governors to grant clemency – which can either reduce a sentence or free a prisoner entirely – to those previously convicted of cannabis crimes, according to the release.
The Vermont-based company also launched an online petition requesting “Governors to use their power of clemency to pardon people for marijuana-related offenses under state laws.”
There are approximately 250,000 Michiganders burdened by cannabis convictions, according to the release, which noted Black people are 3.6x more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people.