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Missouri Governor Commutes Life Sentence for Pot Offender

Jeffrey Mizanskey, a Missouri man sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole over marijuana possession, learned earlier last week that he would be considered for release in the near future. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced on Friday the commutation of Mizanskey’s sentence, giving a man, who has spent the past 20 years rotting away in the Jefferson City Correctional Center, the immediate eligibility for parole.

Although this commutation does not guarantee Mizanskey’s release, it does give him the opportunity to plead his case before the parole board. Governor Nixon said in a press release that his action would give Mizanskey, who was sentenced under the newly repealed Prior and Persistent Drug Offender law, the chance to “demonstrate that he deserves parole.”

Earlier this year, High Times obtained a letter written by Mizanskey that told the tale of a man prepared to admit defeat. Although his story has been one of the most highly publicized cases in regards to non-violent drug offenders receiving unreasonable sentences, it was apparent that Mizanskey had lost all hope of Governor Nixon taking enough notice to give him a fighting chance for a life outside the penitentiary.

“I will die here in prison,” he wrote.

Fortunately, Mizanskey will now have the opportunity later this year to go before the parole board for the first time since his incarceration. Reports indicate that while he is immediately eligible for a hearing, it is uncertain just how quickly one will be scheduled.

A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Corrections speculates that one will happen over the summer. Yet, even if a hearing is scheduled soon, it could still take between 8 to 12 weeks before the board reaches a decision.

Optimistically speaking, there should be no hitch in Mizanskey’s case that causes the board to rule against him. After all, none of his indiscretions involved violent crime, and he is considered a model prisoner.

“In almost 22 years he had two write-ups, one for putting mail in the wrong slot and one for a messy floor,” Aaron Malin, with the marijuana advocacy group Show-Me Cannabis, told the Riverfront Times. “Tell me that’s not a model prisoner. No fights, no nothing.”

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