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No Pardon for Missouri Pot Prisoner Serving Life

Mark Miller



Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declined to pardon high-profile pot prisoner Jeff Mizanskey while freeing nine other nonviolent offenders late last month.

Mizanskey, 61, is currently serving life without parole at Jefferson City Correctional Center, victimized by an unfair three strikes’ law that has since been repealed.

Mizanskey, who has been in prison for over 20 years, was arrested in 1993 for possessing five pounds of marijuana. The possession with intent to distribute charge carries a sentence of ten years but Mizanskey got life because it was his third conviction (in 1984 he was arrested for selling an ounce of pot and in 1991 he got busted for possession of over 35 grams). All of his crimes were non-violent marijuana offenses but under Missouri’s prior and persistent drug offender law, it didn’t matter.

Given the opportunity to right this wrong, Governor Nixon inexplicably failed to pardon Mizanskey. The snubbing has garnered substantial press attention and according to Missouri NORML’s Dan Viets, pot activists at NORML and Show-Me-Cannabis have not given up on their mission to have Jeff Mizanskey released. The organizations have initiated a statewide billboard campaign and obtained commitments to pardon Mizanskey from all of the 2016 Missouri gubernatorial candidates*.

Viets also was part of the Missouri Bar committee that redrafted the state criminal code to repeal the three strikes law, which theoretically makes pardoning Mizanskey an easier political decision for Jay Nixon or any subsequent Missouri governor.

Governor Nixon has a personal connection to marijuana and the penal system as his son Will was busted for misdemeanor marijuana possession in September 2011. However, despite the younger Nixon being caught with pot, the charges were dropped due to “lack of evidence.”

*UPDATE 01/12/15

Missouri NORML and Show-Me-Cannabis are working on obtaining commitments from all of the 2016 Missouri gubernatorial candidates to pardon Jeff Mizanskey but currently do not have any such pledges. The original article incorrectly stated that all of the 2016 candidates for governor had already committed to pardoning Mizanskey.