Cannabis Criminal Justice Reform

The Sentence of Michael Thompson

Agency: Cresco Productions


2023 Clio Cannabis Grand and Gold Award Winner.

The main objective of the film is to drive awareness of the 40,000+ individuals incarcerated for cannabis and the negative impact of the War on Drugs on marginalized communities.

The subject of the short documentary, Michael Thompson, is the longest-serving, non-violent offender in Michigan’s history. In 1994, he was arrested for selling three pounds of cannabis to a close friend-turned-police informant. He was sentenced to 42-60 years and remained in prison after Michigan legalized cannabis in 2013.

The Sentence of Michael Thompson follows Michael’s daughter, Rashawnda, and his lawyer, Kim, as they appeal the parole board, and through them, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

In January 2020, nonprofit Last Prisoner Project approached Kyle Thrash to help bring awareness to Michael Thompson’s clemency case. With an estimated 40,000 individuals incarcerated for cannabis at that time, Kyle believed that he could put a face and a story to this astounding statistic and help Michael’s case. Kyle and Michael formed a deep connection the first time they spoke over the phone. Michael was warm and open and had a great sense of humor. Throughout 2020, Kyle got to know Michael intimately, recording hundreds of hours of phone calls discussing Michael’s life, his dreams and his goals. Kyle also helped the Last Prisoner Project launch a campaign that distributed over 150,000 letters in support of Michael’s clemency case to Michigan Governor Whitmer. After nine months of conversation, Michael received a public hearing date. That is when filmmaking began.

The filmmaking team interviewed the parties involved in the case and read through hundreds of pages of transcripts to understand how a sentence like this could be given to one individual. A turning point was when the parties were able to get the Attorney General to publicly support Michael’s clemency application—something that rarely, if ever happens, in Michigan and in law enforcement. On the day of the public hearing, there were more supporters for Michael in the room than the Committee had ever seen before. A month later, the filmmaking team received a call that Michael’s clemency application was approved, and in January 2021 he was released after 25 years.

The Sentence of Michael Thompson premiered at nearly 20 film festivals in 2022. It was one of the most awarded short documentaries the 2022 film festival circuit. It received Audience Awards at SXSW Film Festival, Chicago Critics Film Festival and Hamptons International Film Festival, as well as a Jury & Audience Award at Palm Springs International Shortfest and a Jury Award at RiverRun International Film Festival. The film has garnered so much praise—from cannabis activists to Hollywood producers and directors—that it was recently nominated in the Outstanding Short Documentary category in the 44th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards.

The film made its public debut on October 30, 2022, through an exclusive partnership with MSNBC and XTR’s streaming service Documentary+.

Cresco is the sole financier of The Sentence of Michael Thompson. The national cannabis brand launched Cresco Productions in 2020 to tell important stories in the cannabis industry. This is the first piece of work from Cresco Productions.

The documentary’s filmmaking team includes Kyle Thrash, Haley Elizabeth Anderson, Ian Ross, Logan Triplett and Matt Schaff, who’s work have been shown at SXSW, Sundance and Tribeca, among other notable film festivals.

This professional campaign titled 'The Sentence of Michael Thompson' was published in United States in October, 2023. It was created for the brand: Cannabis Criminal Justice Reform, by ad agency: Cresco Productions. This Film medium campaign is related to the Cannabis industry and contains 1 media asset. It was submitted 4 months ago.


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