Missouri Man Serving Life in Prison for Marijuana Will Soon Go Free

By May Wilkerson 08/14/15

Jeff Mizanskey will finally be set free after serving 20 years of a life sentence for pot.

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Jeff Mizanskey
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For many people, changing marijuana laws could mean the end of life behind bars. Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man who was serving life in prison for nonviolent marijuana offenses, will be set free within a month, thanks to the repeal of the state’s three-strikes law. "We were notified today that he will be granted parole and be released within '10 to 25 days,'" said his lawyer Dan Viets.

Mizanskey was caught attempting to sell about six pounds of pot in a police sting operation in 1993. It was his third offense, all involving marijuana. Under Missouri’s three-strikes law he was given a life sentence with no option for parole.

The three-strikes law was repealed last year, and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon commuted Mizanskey’s life sentence in May, making him eligible for parole after nearly two decades behind bars. A Change.org petition calling for his release had received nearly 400,000 signatures and the Free Jeff Mizanskey Facebook page has nearly 10,000 likes.

"Great news everyone ... Jeff is coming home this month!" said a post on the page yesterday. "We want everyone to know how greatful [sic] we are for all the support received throughout this whole ordeal."

About half of all drug-related crimes in the country are marijuana offenses, usually involving simple possession. Of the more than eight million marijuana arrests made between 2001 and 2010, an overwhelming 88% were for possession alone, according to a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, according to a report from the FBI.

The human toll of marijuana criminalization in the U.S. is staggering. Despite making up just 5% of the world’s population, the US is home to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, due largely to harsh sentences for nonviolent drug possession and distribution. In 2013, there were an estimated 490,000 drug offenders behind bars, and most of them had no prior criminal records.

According to some national estimates, maintaining marijuana prohibition is costing state and local governments between $10 billion and $20 billion a year.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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