Earlier this week Jeff Mizanskey was released from prison after being behind bars for 20 years. As inconceivable as it may seem here in tolerant Holland, In the US Jeff Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison without parole on a marijuana-related charge.
Now thanks to the growing milder attitude towards pot, tireless lobbying from his family and friends, and important changes in laws and regulations he is a free man today.
Mizanskey was imprisoned in 1996 after police said he planned on selling six pounds of marijuana to a dealer that was connected to the Mexican drug cartels. Ironically this happened to be the same year that California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes! Because Mizanskey already had two prior drug convictions (both nonviolent), under Missouri law the judge had the right to sentence him for life without parole and tragically, that sentence was what he got
Being the only Missouri inmate serving a crazy sentence like his for a non violent marijuana related offense, Governor Nixon agreed in May to reduce his sentence. Nixon took into consideration Mizanskey’s nonviolent record and took notice that his offenses didn’t include selling drugs to minors. Also, the law under which he was sentenced by in the first place had been changed over the years.
Mizanskey, now 62, was lovingly greeted coming out of prison by his family and infant great-granddaughter. He says, “I spent a third of my life in prison. It’s a shame.” He also said that he plans on spending his post-prison life seeking a job and advocating for the legalization of marijuana. He criticized sentencing for minor drug-related crimes as being unfair and described his life behind bars as “hell.”
A few other states are reevaluating punishments for drug-possession crimes, mostly prompted by the increasing high cost of imprisoning low-level, nonviolent offenders. Alabama and Nebraska are expecting to save hundreds of millions of dollars(!!) by cutting down on the number of offenders locked up for possessing a small amount of drugs under the new laws. Also, I’m happy to note that medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and recreational marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington state, and Washington, D.C.
Years To Follow
I am overjoyed with all the reform that is happening concerning marijuana in the United States. Memories flood my mind of incidents regarding marijuana intolerance in that outdated law system. I remember a few years ago heading back home from Bonnaroo music festival, my friends and I had over 600 miles to drive. We pulled over on the side of the road to check directions when a cop pulled up behind us to see what the problem was. Admittedly, we probably looked a bit peculiar, with our dirty hippie tie-dye outfits and reeking of 3 day long festival dirt. He offered to go easy on us if we voluntarily gave up any pot in our possession, but then threatened arrest if he had to do a search and found as much as a marijuana seed in the car. A simple marijuana seed could be the cause of a clean record soiled with a drug related charge that would haunt me for the rest of my life. Such intolerance is hard to swallow.
Thankfully that day we got away without trouble, but that is just one incident of the many over the years to follow. Not to mention the unlucky friends jailed for possession of marijuana for even just the smallest amounts.
I can now look to the future and be excited with what is in store for us with increased tolerance and abandoning unnecessary arrests. Although the United States still has milestones to go, I am glad to report, that one milestone has already been made, by freeing Jeff Mizanskey.