[email protected] asks fans to tell their governor to grant clemency to victims of the racist war on drugs. Tweet
Burlington, VT, April 17, 2023 —
Ben & Jerry’s is turning its attention to half-baked marijuana legalization this 4/20 – focusing on Michigan where cannabis use is legalized but many are still serving time or have long-standing records for cannabis-related convictions. As legalization has swept across the nation, those convicted and incarcerated for cannabis possession are glaringly overlooked and continue to suffer from the long-term impacts of the war on drugs.
The Vermont ice cream maker is calling for clemency, which governors can bestow to either reduce a sentence or free an incarcerated person. Last year, governors in states like Oregon and Pennsylvania granted marijuana pardons and commutations, but there remains great opportunity for cannabis clemency in many states. For example, in 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that streamlined removal of cannabis and other misdemeanors from public record but excludes felony convictions for sentences of 10 or more years. The ‘Clean Slate’ Bill allowed Whitmer to grant clemency to Michael Thompson, who served 25 years for cannabis conviction – the longest sentence for a nonviolent drug charge in the history of the state. While this was an important step in the right direction, more can and should be done to ensure that all people still incarcerated for cannabis crimes are released.
“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. “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.”Tell Your Governor Legalization without Justice is Half Baked
The "Green Cotton" episode of Ben & Jerry's podcast “Into the Mix” tells the story of Michael Thompson, a Flint native, who after selling marijuana to a police informant served the longest sentence for a nonviolent drug charge in MI's history. Like Michael, thousands of folks across the country all face the impacts of the racist war on drugs.
Now is the time to address the racial inequities in cannabis criminalization by calling on Whitmer and all governors to grant widespread clemency for those still incarcerated for cannabis crimes. Clemency at an individual level is an expensive, slow-moving process requiring herculean efforts to cut through red tape whereas a governor can untangle the complicated system with the power of commutation. There are still 250,000 Michiganders burdened by cannabis convictions and Black people are more than 3.6x likely to be arrested for possession than white people.
In an excerpt from Ben & Jerry’s podcast, Into the Mix, Thompson said, “You got to understand 25 years – what do you expect my life to be like? Where my life is. To me, it’s an embarrassment. But what makes it not an embarrassment is the Michael Thompson Clemency [Project] that has been formed. That’s real. I had to fight even after marijuana was legal […]. I had to still fight to get out. So, I’m just thinking, how many more Michael Thompsons is [sic] in there?”
To advance this work, Ben & Jerry’s launched a campaign to address the issue and ask their fans and citizens alike to contact governor Whitmer to urge her to grant clemency to the thousands of incarcerated and right the wrongs of injustice. The company’s campaign has placed billboards adjacent to the Michigan state house in Lansing and mobile billboards across Ann Arbor and Lansing and is part of a larger national campaign calling for clemency in every state.
Michigan is one of a number of states where this story is unfolding and fans nationwide have the opportunity to use their voice and Ben & Jerry’s is making it easy to take action with an autofill letter template here. To hear Michael Thompson’s full story on the “Green Cotton” episode of Ben & Jerry’s Into the Mix podcast, visit benjerry.com.
Media Contact:Ben & Jerry’s
About Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's is an aspiring social justice company that believes in a greater calling than simply making and selling the world’s best ice cream. The company produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream and Non-Dairy/vegan desserts using high-quality ingredients and lots of big chunks and swirls. As a Certified B Corp, Ben & Jerry's incorporates its vision of Linked Prosperity into its business practices via values-led sourcing initiatives when purchasing ingredients. Ben & Jerry's is distributed in over 35 countries in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, franchised Scoop Shops, and via on-demand delivery services. Ben & Jerry's, a Vermont corporation and wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, a fair financial return, and addressing issues of social, racial, and environmental injustice around the globe. The Ben & Jerry's Foundation, guided by Ben & Jerry’s employees, granted $4.35MM in 2022 to support progressive, justice-focused grassroots organizing around the country. For up-to-date information visit benjerry.com.